The attorney for an ex-felon charged with illegally voting must be allowed to question an aide to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad before the trial begins, a judge ruled Thursday. Kelli Jo Griffin’s attorney had claimed that Branstad aide Rebecca Elming, a prosecution witness, refused to be deposed last week on the advice of state lawyers. But Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers disputed that Thursday, saying the deposition had not been scheduled. “Now that a deposition has been requested, we will work with the parties to make Elming available,” he said. Judge Mary Ann Brown said Griffin had a right to depose Elming before trial, which she delayed from Thursday until March 19 due to an attorney’s illness.
Griffin is accused of lying on a registration form when she attested that she was not an ineligible felon before she voted in a Nov. 5 municipal election in Montrose, a southeastern Iowa town with a population of 878. Prosecutors say Branstad had not restored Griffin’s voting rights after she was convicted in 2008 in Henry County of delivering less than 100 grams of cocaine. To gain a conviction, they will have to prove that she knew she did not have voting rights, which could be a challenge given widespread confusion about Iowa’s policies.
Prosecutors conceded Wednesday that Griffin’s parole officer would not testify that Griffin had been informed that she was ineligible. Lee County Attorney Michael Short said in an interview last month he believed the officer had warned Griffin, which would undercut any claim that she was confused. Griffin, 40, faces a minimum prison sentence of three years if convicted since she was charged as a habitual offender.