Governor Chet Culver says counties can’t expect the state and federal governments to foot the entire bill for voting machine upgrades. "They’re going to have to pick up the lion’s share of the cost," Culver says. Culver’s comments come admid a statehouse debate in which Secretary of State Michael Mauro is pushing for nine-million dollars to help Iowa counties buy new voting equipment for November’s election.
Culver, who was Iowa’s Secretary of State for eight years before his election as governor in 2006, is recommending only two-million. "Certainly, in the long run, counties are going to have to buy election equipment," Culver says. "The Help America Vote Act was a short-term fix where the state and federal government stepped up to the plate to help counties buy equipment. The idea that that’s going to be the case forever is not accurate."
The Help America Vote Act was passed in 2001 in reaction to the 2000 presidential election and the controversy surrounding those "hanging chads" and other disputes connected to the Florida balloting. "Since 1846, counties have always been responsible for purchasing voting equipment. It wasn’t until the Help America Vote Act in 2001 that the state and federal government helped," Culver says. "I think that was a good thing given what happened in Florida in 2001 and we have completely modernized our voting system and our voter registration system."
Culver is also defending the way he spent federal "Help America Vote" grant money while he was Secretary of State. A recent audit raised questions about spending the money on youth voting activities, including a speaking fee paid to Iowa opera star Simon Estes. Culver says Estes was able to tell the audience a compelling story about voting discrimination against minorities in the past.