Iowa Publishes Misleading Info To Drum Up Support For Voting Restrictions

Bill Clark/CQPHO

Iowa’s Republican secretary of state issued several misleading and inaccurate reports to the press regarding the frequency of voter fraud, according to e-mails from his own staff obtained by the Huffington Post and published this weekend.

In a bid to justify a host of voting restrictions he has proposed, Republican Paul Pate, the state’s top election official, told local reporters that 41 felons had cast ballots in the 2016 election and that more than 200 election day voter registrations had “bounced back” as invalid.

Yet deputy secretary of state for elections Carol Olson argued in an internal e-mail that neither of those findings are evidence of voter fraud, as Pate claimed. The voters with criminal records, she said, may have been urged by a poll worker to cast a provisional ballot—which would later be reviewed and tossed out as ineligible if indeed they were barred from voting. And the 200 invalid same-day registrations that bounced back, Olson added, could be attributed to human error.

“The vast majority of these ‘bounce-backs’ are sloppy addresses from voters in too much of a hurry when they register at the polls,” she wrote. “That’s a real reason to discourage EDR and a real reason to have pollbooks, but it’s not an indicator of illegal activity.”

She noted too that the review of same-day registrations only looked at 15 of the state’s 99 counties, painting an inaccurate picture of Iowa’s voter registration success rate.

Despite the lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud—which is vanishingly rare nationwide—Pate is currently pushing a bill that would require a voter ID at the polls, eliminated straight ticket voting, and mandate post-election audits of the vote. Versions of his bill have already passed Iowa’s House and Senate and are expected to be enacted soon.