Judge: Scott County can use Center for Tech and Civic Life money for election costs

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Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand, of the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, has denied a temporary restraining order sought by the Iowa Voter Alliance against Scott County and Blackhawk County.

Specific to Scott County, the group sought to prevent Scott County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Roxanna Moritz from using money provided to the county by the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a news release says. The center provided money to 64 counties in Iowa (and numerous other counties in the United States) to help defray extra election costs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Strand found the Voter Alliance did not meet its burden on any of the four legal principles for granting a restraining order. He found that the group did not demonstrate it had a private right of action against the counties and, as a result, did not show a chance of success in pursuing the lawsuit.

He also found the group could not show how the grants harmed anyone, and in contrast found that preventing the counties from spending the grants presented significant harm. He wrote that stopping the counties from using the grants would hinder their ability to meet their election needs and harm their residents in exercising their right to vote.

Strand also pointed out that denying the use of the funds by only two out of 64 counties would put the residents of Scott and Blackhawk Counties at a disadvantage from the other counties receiving funds.

“We sought these funds to help defray the costs of conducting an election in the time of a pandemic,” Moritz said. “Scott County has been hit by the economic down turn from the pandemic, and county administration has warned of possible future budget constraints.

“I think this is a win for the taxpayers and voters of Scott County to have the extra election costs paid from a charitable foundation,” she said.

The money will help pay for extra sanitation measures at polling places, greatly expanded hours of early voting, extra wages for poll workers and other various costs not originally in the county’s election budget.

“Some of these costs would have been borne by the tax payers,” Moritz said. “Some of these measures would not occur without the grant. I’m just glad we can go ahead with our plans and conduct as safe an election as we can given the growing number of COVID-19 numbers in our county.”

The center, according to its website, is a team of civic technologists, trainers, researchers, election administration and data experts working to foster a more informed and engaged democracy, and helping to modernize U.S. elections.

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