Jenkins said, however, that Schultz should be prepared to repay the money if the Election Assistance Commission determines the funds weren’t properly used.
The commission under the Help America Vote Act is supposed to have four members nominated by the president and approved by Congress. The last commissioners quit in December 2011, and Congress has not approved any nominees.
Without commissioners, the agency cannot advise states on the use of the vote act’s funds and has told Courtney it could not look further into Schultz’s use of the federal money until the commission has at least three voting members.
Two nominees, Thomas Hicks and Myrna Perez, appeared before the committee for a hearing last year, but a vote was never held. They appeared again for a confirmation hearing on Dec. 11, but no action has yet been taken. Republicans in the House and Senate have said the commission should be dissolved.
“This commission is redundant and ought to be eliminated,” Roberts said in a statement before the hearing. “If the majority sees the light, maybe we can finally get rid of this commission and save the taxpayers some money.”
Schumer said the commission’s role in certifying voting machines and administering the vote act’s money is still important and it is severely hampered without at least three commissioners to conduct business.
“At a time when long lines continue to plague our country and impede voting, we must have a functioning EAC. Confirming these nominees is the first step,” he said in opening remarks for the hearing.
The issue illustrates a philosophical rift between Democrats and Republicans over voting issues. Republicans in Iowa and elsewhere have championed voter ID laws and other measures that they say are meant to combat voter fraud. Democrats contend that in-person voter fraud is very rare, and that such laws are really meant to disenfranchise voting blocs that traditionally support their party, including students, the poor and the elderly.
After 18 months of investigations, Schultz has spent about $150,000. The investigations have led to charges against 16 people in Iowa, where about 2.1 million people are registered to vote. Many of those charged said they mistakenly registered or believed they were able to vote.