Iowans are showing up at the polls

Monday, August 6, 2018

State breaks record with more than 2 million active voters, becomes 25th state to join ERIC

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate
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The Iowa Secretary of State’s Office recently announced the state has broken some voting records, most notably the state of Iowa’s record for active registered voters at 2,045,864 as of January 2017. In a release, the office also notes more than 250,000 Iowans have registered to vote in the past three years and Iowa is ranked in the top six for voter participation. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate suggested two reasons for the increase are due to the introduction of online voter registration to the state and the excitement surrounding recent elections.

“When you see those kind of numbers I think we’re getting through with our process,” Pate said. “We launched the online voter registration and that’s been a smashing success. ... That’s very helpful to the voters because it addresses the convenience issue.

He continued, “You have to give credit where it’s due, especially when you have elections, candidates or issues that provide that adrenaline. ... I think clearly in the presidential election that was felt. ... We’ll probably see that in this gubernatorial election too. In the primary, we saw Democratic candidates had one of the highest turnouts they’ve ever had.”

Despite the statewide trends, according to Clay County Auditor Marge Pitts, voting trends have remained mostly unchanged locally.

“From a year ago, we’re up 31 active voters,” Pitts said. “But, we have a good record of participation. We have 16,000 people in Clay County and 11,800 are registered. That doesn’t leave a lot of gap for those that aren’t. Those who are probably below the voting age might be a lot of that difference.”

The Iowa Secretary of State’s Office also announced on July 26 that Iowa would become the 25th state in the nation to join the Electronic Registration Information Center. The 25-state system is comprised of 91.8 million people and utilizes “a cryptographic one-way hash to protect personal information.” The office suggested the system would improve accuracy at the polls, increase voter registration and reduce costs.

“It’s a great administrative tool,” Pate said. “We’re accessing one more source to make sure we have all the eligible voters on the list and not anyone who’s perhaps passed away or moved.

He continued, “Over the next few months, ERIC will help us identify Iowans who are eligible to vote but are not registered. We will send each of them a mailing to encourage them to register to vote and information on how to get it done.”

Pitts and Pate also commented on voting changes caused by a temporary injunction placed on parts of Iowa's Election Modernization and Integrity Act (H.F. 516) during an ongoing lawsuit over the legislation which was filed in May.

“I can only speak for today because things change,” Pate said. “But I think today, with the injunction that was asked for by the group that came forward, the only real change is there will be a longer period for absentee ballots to be requested and voted. That’s really the only one voters are going to see. Internally, we have some changes for county officials and auditors, how we recognize the signature on an absentee ballot and pin number, but that’s really it.”

“The new legislation was going to require us to reject something that didn’t have their voter pin or ID and with this stay we’re not able to reject for that reason,” Pitts said. “Usually here, people that vote at counter won’t notice any difference. Those that are by mail, ... we have very few of what we call ‘having to follow up on’ because it’s deficient in some way. We’re really fortunate here actually, that people know how to vote and they like to vote.

She continued, “It’s not going to have that much of an impact. Yes, we have to be conscious of the changes because of the stay or injunction, but the general public is not going to be faced with any huge changes. ... In 2019 for the entire calendar year, the regulations are the same no matter what election it might be. But, the absentee voting timing is 40 days before instead of 29 days before. I think how soon or how late we can send out a ballot to someone is what that stay has really been talking more about.”

Pate said he was looking forward to witnessing voter turnout in November.

“I think we’ll have pretty good numbers,” Pate said.

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