Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, left, and Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines hosted a “Voter Ready” roundtable discussion to help inform the public about new voter integrity election laws last Tuesday in the courthouse annex in Decorah. (Decorah Newspapers photo by Sarah Strandberg)
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, left, and Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines hosted a “Voter Ready” roundtable discussion to help inform the public about new voter integrity election laws last Tuesday in the courthouse annex in Decorah. (Decorah Newspapers photo by Sarah Strandberg)
Attempts by foreign interests to impact Iowa elections have been unsuccessful so far, according to Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.
Pate and Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines hosted a “Voter Ready” roundtable discussion to help inform the public about new voter integrity election laws last Tuesday in the courthouse annex in Decorah.
“Not a single vote has ever been touched here by Russia or any bad actors,” Pate said.
It’s not for a lack of trying.
“Hundreds of thousands of bad actors every day try to get into government systems – state, counties, schools – either to show off or steal identities or create discord and a lack of confidence in the voting system,” he said.
“The cold war isn’t over, it’s just shifted gears – propaganda and trade wars are where it’s at today,” Pate said.
But Iowans need to “stand tall,” the secretary of state said, and not lose confidence in Iowa’s election system.
“They’re not changing any vote. We vote by paper ballots. There’s not a single Russian from Moscow voting here in Iowa – we do let Moscow, Iowa vote, but not the other way around,” he said.

‘Fundamental change’
Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential election fundamentally changed how elections are administered across the United States, Deputy Iowa Commissioner of Elections Ken Kline said during last week’s roundtable.
While Iowa wasn’t impacted, officials later learned Russians had attempted to hack into the state’s system.
“What happened is similar to a criminal driving through the neighborhood. They didn’t get out of the vehicle, -- they didn’t approach the site. They visited our website but didn’t damage the voter management system,” Kline said.
As a precaution, voter registration information has been moved to an off-site facility and only certain Internet Protocol (IP) addresses are allowed access to it, Kline said.
He said a variety of steps have been taken to secure the state’s system.
“To be absolutely clear. There is no perfect security. Experts will tell you that,” Kline said.
But he said multiple layers of security are in place to frustrate hackers.
“As quick as you put something in place, someone out there is trying to best the system, but we’re not resting,” Pate said. “We’re working with numerous entities. There are a lot of partners in the room trying to promote the best safeguards … that’s what is making Iowa successful.”

What’s new?
Pate also summarized upcoming changes for elections.
Starting in 2019, 17-year-olds will be eligible to register to vote and vote if they’re 18 in November.
“Democrats and Republicans both have allowed 17-year-olds to caucus if they’ll be 18 in November. It seems they also should be able to vote in the primary and get into the routine of voting,” Pate said.
Also starting in 2019, school district and city elections will be held on the same date in November on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in the month.
“It’s been under discussion for many years. From a cost standpoint, having two elections within a short window is cost extensive,” Pate said.
In addition, voter turnout for school elections has been “dismal” at around 4 percent across the state and not much better for city elections, which average around 15 percent. Steines agreed Winneshiek County experiences similar turnouts for school and city elections.
“That’s not enough people making those kinds of decisions,” Pate said.
“Most Iowans are focused on November, which will allow auditors’ staffs to focus on having staff prepared for one election,” Pate said.
The non-partisan school and city elections will be held in odd-numbered years, Pate said.

Voter registration
According to Pate, voter registration hasn’t change with the 2017 voter ID law.
“It’s the same as it’s always been. The only thing we’ve done is improve on two arenas,” he said.
On-line voter registration has taken the pressure off same-day registration, particularly in college communities, Pate said.
“It’s dramatically reducing the number of people registering on Election Day … ninety-three percent of Iowans are now registered. Iowans take voting pretty darn seriously,” he said.
Another change in voter registration is the Iowa Legislature has approved allowing citizens to use electronic documents to prove their address. It allows college students who have an out-of-state license to use an electronic utility bill to prove where they live.
The biggest change is voter identification, Pate said.
“It’s not photo ID,” he said, explaining a photo is not part of the requirement.
For most people, that’s their driver’s license, because more than 92 percent of the people who vote have a driver’s license. A license can be scanned to see if the voter is in the right district. Scanning the license can also determine whether the voter has requested an absentee ballot, or whether they are a felon who cannot vote.
Iowans who do not have a driver’s license were mailed voter cards, with a bar code that can be scanned.
Pate explained the new voter identification rules had a “soft roll out” this year, to give Iowans time to get comfortable with them. They formally go into effect in January, he said.
After Jan. 1, voters will be required to show a driver’s license, non-driver’s ID, passport, military ID, veterans ID or voter ID card at the polls before they vote. Voters without the necessary ID may use an “attester” or witness, or they will be offered a provisional ballot and provide ID up until the time of the county canvass of votes.
“No one gets turned away,” he said.
“Iowa is in the top six in the nation for voter participation. I credit Iowans for voting. It’s one of the only states in the country that offers on-line registration and same-day voter registration. It’s not the norm by any means. Other states don’t do all those things,” he said.

Early voting
The League of United Latin American Citizens and Taylor Blair, an Iowa State University student, are suing Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate over the 2017 voter ID law.
Last month, a judge granted an injunction blocking portions of the law that would have shortened the state’s early voting period from 40 to 29 days, required an identification number to apply for an absentee ballot and allowed election officials to reject absentee applications and ballots when they determine signatures on those forms don’t match voters’ signatures on record.
Pate said he is asking the Supreme Court to remove the injunction. He said without requiring a voter identification number on absentee ballots, which is a popular form of voting, the absentee system is a “little too much wild west.”
“If we have voter frauds it will come in that arena,” he said.
Pate said if the change to a 29-day early voting period is granted, Iowa will still have one of the longest early-voting periods in the country.
“Forty days out, people don’t know who you are,” he said.
On Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court allowed the reduction in early voting days to change from 40 to 29 for the November general election.