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Around the States

Iowa: Culver, Mauro Disagree on How To Update Voting Systems PDF  | Print |  Email
By Jennifer Jacobs, Des Moines Register Staff Writer   
February 03, 2008
In one corner of the ring: Chet Culver. In the other corner: Michael Mauro.

There's some professional sparring going on between the former top election official in Iowa and the current one. It runs deeper than just their differences over how exactly to update Iowa's voting. Both men downplay the tension, but it intensified last week.

Culver made some stinging comments about Mauro and the "mistakes" of Iowa's county election officials. And a federal report critical of Culver came to light.

The U.S. Elections Assistance Commission, in a new report, found that when Culver was secretary of state, his office misspent $92,895 in federal money meant for purchasing handicapped-accessible voting equipment and for voter education efforts. The commission previously had agreed with a 2007 state audit that found over $61,000 in alleged misspending, but now is raising that amount.

Culver flatly disputes the findings. An appeal was launched of the original order to repay $61,238. Dealings with the federal commission continue. When Mauro took over as secretary of state, he inherited the whole situation.

Mauro declined last week to weigh in on whether any of Culver's spending was improper. "I'm not going to get on one side or the other on that," Mauro said, "because it doesn't serve any useful purpose for me."

Meanwhile, each man is trying to drum up support for his own proposal for ensuring a paper trail for every voting machine in Iowa.

Mauro wants to spend $9.7 million to give every voter an actual paper ballot that could be recounted later. Culver wants to spend only $2 million to equip touch-screen voting machines, which have electronic ballots, with a special printer that shows voters their choices on a continuous roll of paper.

In Mauro's cheering section are watchdog groups, and some key lawmakers and county election officials of both political stripes.

Sean Flaherty of Iowans for Voting Integrity, a Fairfield-based citizens group, gave Culver's plan a thumbs down. "Paper printouts are better than no paper trail, but spending money on paper-trail printers is chasing good money after bad," said Flaherty, of North Liberty. "No one respects these printers, and it is likely that Congress will ban them in the near future."


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