Secretary of State prepares for November elections

The Nov. 5 city council and school board elections may seem like a ways off, but they’re really not, says Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.

Pate is reminding Iowans that some things have changed when it comes to elections in the state. First, this is the first year that city elections and school board elections are being merged onto one ballot and one election day.

“We are reminding people that the fifth of November is the election and for those people who thought they missed the school board election in September, they didn’t miss it,” he said. “The biggest challenge is reminding our country cousins that they have something to vote on Nov. 5.”

While rural Iowans may live outside city limits, they still have the opportunity to vote in the school board elections.

The state also had its “soft roll-out” of the new voter identification law last year and it is fully in place for this year’s elections. Voters will need to bring an Iowa driver’s license or an Iowa non-operator ID that have not been expired for more than 90 days, a U.S. passport, military ID or veteran ID that is not expired, a Tribal ID card or document that is not expired and is signed and with a photo, or an Iowa voter identification card that has been signed.

Voters can obtain a voter ID card for free from the county auditor’s office at any time.

“About 94 percent of Iowa voters have a driver’s license, but for those who don’t, we want to make sure they get a free card from the auditor … and that will get them all set,” Pate said.

According to the secretary of state’s election website, a voter without one of the required forms of ID may have the voter’s identity attested to by another registered voter in the precinct or may prove identity and residence using “election day registration documents,” like an out-of-state driver’s license and a utility bill.

Pate said the state’s biggest reason for combining the city elections with the school board elections was to increase voter turnout.

“In Iowa, we’re one of the leading states in the country when it comes to voter registration and participation, but when you look at school elections and city elections, it’s a little on the light side,” he said.

He said he thinks it will also take away some of the “confusion” of the elections because voters won’t have to worry about remembering to vote in the September school board elections and then vote again two months later in the November city elections. Additionally, both elections are non-partisan, “so there’s no confusion on what political party is doing what.”

This is also the first year that the state is allowing 17-year-olds to register to vote and to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the general election.

“We’ve had over 3,400 17-year-olds register across the state and we saw a record turnout for 18 through 30-year-olds in the 2018 election,” Pate said. “We encourage all Iowans to be voters.”

Pate wants to assure Iowans that when it comes to cybersecurity, Iowa voters are protected and he is dedicated to ensuring “the public has a strong confidence in our election system.”

“Nowhere in the United States of America has a single vote been hacked by a Russian,” he said. “Not a single vote.”

He said that while there are “bad actors trying to create doubt through propaganda” and through hacking, his job as the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State is making sure “we do our due diligence every day to make sure we hold them at bay and keep them away.”

For Iowans and elections here, they have the “trifecta,” he said.

Using only paper ballots is the first safeguard the state has against potential vote-hacking.

“The second one is when you go to vote, your friends and neighbors are the poll workers,” he said. “And the third is the voter ID, which is the component that lets us monitor and make sure the people who are voting by mail and in person have an additional safeguard to make sure you are who you say you are, you are voting in the right place and you’re only voting once.”

Voter turnout is very important for all types of elections, Pate said. He said it’s not uncommon for a city council or school board race to be determined by five or 10 votes. And that remains important for the larger state-wide and national elections as well.

“We take our elections very seriously,” he said. “We had a record turnout in 2018 and I believe we’ll break a record in 2020.”

One additional point Pate wanted to stress to voters is that Iowa does offer early voting for voters who may want to vote in person, but can’t make it to the polls on election day for whatever reason.

According to the Webster County Auditor’s office, early voting for the Nov. 5 election will begin later this week once the office has received the ballots. Any voter wanting to vote early can stop by the auditor’s office any time Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“We’re pretty pumped for this Nov. 5 election,” Pate said.


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