- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A man who registered and then voted in the November 2012 election has been sentenced to up to five years in prison for first-degree election misconduct, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz said Wednesday.

Brian Lee Bird, 43, is the seventh person from Iowa to plead guilty to election-related charges brought as a result of an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent’s probe at the request of Schultz.

The two-year investigation resulted in election-related charges against 27 people.

Bird entered a guilty plea Tuesday. His attorney Robert Conrad did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Bird recently has been living in Fort Dodge. But in 2012, he resided in Knoxville where he registered to vote at the polls in the November general election and cast a ballot, Marion County Attorney Ed Bull said.

The DCI turned the case over to Bull, who determined there was no confusion about whether Bird’s right to vote had been restored.

“This was a situation where the defendant absolutely knew what the law was and chose to break it,” Bull said. “The Division of Criminal Investigation brought us a prosecutable case and we prosecuted it.”

In Iowa, felons cannot vote unless they’ve had their rights restored. Voting rights groups and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder have criticized Iowa’s policy as too harsh because, under Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, it has become one of four states to require former felons to apply to the governor to have voting rights restored. Few ex-felons complete the process.

Critics including the American Civil Liberties Union say many cases pursued by investigators have led to charges against former felons who misunderstood Iowa’s law and were confused about whether their rights had been restored.

A Lee County jury in March found Kelli Jo Griffin not guilty after she said she mistakenly believed her right to vote had been restored after she completed probation in 2008 for a drug conviction. She had voted in a 2008 city election in Montrose.

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