A convicted felon from eastern Iowa who voted in a city election has been found not guilty of perjury in Lee County. It’s the first trial stemming from Iowa’s two-year investigation into voter fraud. Kelli Jo Griffin voted in last fall’s city election in Montrose despite have lost her right to cast a ballot over a drug crime.
The 40-year-old Griffin testified that she thought her voting rights were restored as soon as she completed a five-year probation sentence in early 2013. It took the jury just 30 minutes to reach a verdict of not guilty.
Griffin said she was not trying to deceive anyone. “Once a criminal, most people think that you’re always a criminal and that you can’t change,” Griffin told reporters. “I believe people can change and I hope this will show people…that you can change your life around and you can become a better person.”
The state accused Griffin of intentionally lying about being a felon on her voter registration form. If she’d had been convicted, Griffin would’ve faced up to five years in prison. Iowa is one of just four states to require ex-offenders to apply to the governor to regain their voting rights.
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, who’s running for congress, has led an effort to combat voter fraud. In the past two years, that effort has resulted in 26 people being charged with election-related crimes. Critics contend Schultz has wasted taxpayer dollars on the investigations and the charges have mostly involved ex-felons who’ve been unaware of the policy that requires they apply to the governor.
Schultz issued the following statements in reaction to the verdict in Lee County: “The facts of this case are clear, someone voted who did not have the right to vote. The jury’s decision does not change Iowa law, and as a result of this case this individual will not cancel out the vote of anyone in the future. Ensuring the integrity of our elections is important, and I will always fight for integrity.”