In an effort to highlight voter irregularities and push for stricter voting laws, Iowa’s top election official pushed statistics on alleged voter fraud that even a member of his own staff privately suggested were misleading, emails obtained by the Huffington Post reveal. This past January, Iowa’s Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) introduced a bill that required those who wanted to cast a ballot to show official identification, eliminated straight party voting, and established post election audits of the vote. This effort was part of a nationwide push by Republicans to enforce voter ID laws, even though voter fraud is virtually nonexistent. And to sell the measure, his office did what other Republicans have as well: it argued that while there’s been no evidence of voter fraud in Iowa, elections are insecure and could potentially be cheated.
To substantiate his argument, Pate’s office drafted a statement for a reporter from the local Gazette newspaper, noting that in Iowa it appeared 41 felons had cast ballots and that more than 200 election day voter registrations, or EDRs, had bounced back. The draft statement included the caveats that the irregularities “do not necessarily constitute fraud” and that the state would have a more complete picture of election data come March. Pate urged his staff to release it.
“We need to release info and these stats are public already. When an auditor turns them over to the county attorney or sheriff for action that pretty much makes it public. Am I missing something?,” he wrote in an email.
But releasing the statistics drew an objection from Carol Olson, Pate’s deputy secretary of state for elections, who suggested they were misleading. “I do not believe that we should say that 41 felons illegally cast ballots. We encouraged them to use provisional ballots, so that would feel a little like we baited them to do something illegal,” she wrote. “And it’s risky to label it ‘illegal’ because we don’t know the circumstances. It might be illegal, but [it] might not be, if someone really believed their rights were restored. We can report the number of felons voting, but let’s not call it illegal,” she wrote.