As election security doubts mount, Iowa election officials reassure voters of process

By: - September 15, 2022 2:19 pm

Instructions for voting at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd on Nov. 3, 2020. (Photo by Linh Ta/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

(Image courtesy Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University)

This story is part of a project called Democracy Day, in which newsrooms across the country are shining a light on threats to democracy. 

With some political activists saying the nation’s election security is at risk, Iowa’s election officials are taking steps ahead of the November midterms to reassure voters that elections in the state are both fair and secure.

Questions about the authenticity of election results have grown nationwide in the aftermath of the 2020 election, when former President Donald Trump claimed voter fraud prevented him from winning a second term. While national advisors and officials have said such claims are unsubstantiated, election mistrust remains an issue.

“There has been a recent increase in the spread of false claims regarding elections in our state, despite there being no evidence of intrusions into Iowa’s election systems,” a news release from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office said.

Iowa county auditors have faced an influx of challenges to voter registration. In Linn County, 119 voter registrations were challenged in one week, according to County Auditor Joel Miller. During his more than 15 years in office, Miller said, he had previously received a total of only three voter registration information challenges. That same week, one individual challenged 570 voter registrations in Black Hawk County.

The challenges come at the urging of Iowa Canvassing, an organization of “volunteers keeping Iowa voter rolls clean for fair and trusted elections,” according to its website. In July, the group hosted an event with Douglas Frank, a former Ohio math teacher, who said he could mathematically prove 2020 election results were fraudulent. He encouraged Iowans to investigate voter fraud in Iowa, Iowa Starting Line reported, by challenging registrations and personally investigating voter information.

“I think Iowa is late to the game because they have been under the mistaken impression that their elections are OK because Trump won there,” Frank wrote on Telegram. “After showing them their own state data, I hope that this common misconception is finally dispelled.”

Iowa officials say that such claims are unsubstantiated. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and the Auditors Advisory Group, a bipartisan collection of county auditors throughout the state, pushed back Thursday on election disinformation, pointing to both their security measures and registration updates.

Pate told the Iowa Capital Dispatch that he understands and respects people who are passionate about ensuring election results are correct. But, he said, Iowa does not have a history of any major cases of voter fraud, thanks in part to the state’s Voter ID law, publicly testing of voting equipment and post-election audits. Those steps stop and catch fraudulent votes, he said, and also ensure transparency and accuracy in election results.

“There are some people sometimes who have done dumb things, and they get caught for it,” Pate said. “But we’re very studious in watching for these kinds of things.”

The Secretary of State’s Office has stepped up efforts to inform people about how Iowa’s voting systems work, directing citizens to a video and factsheet on the state’s election security measures. The office has also made a “myths vs. facts” webpage to address the most common misinformation that election workers encounter.

Pate said many Iowans remain confident in the state’s election process. Overall, Iowans are “very invested” in voting, he said, adding that voters should be encouraged by the state’s high registration and turnout in recent election cycles. But all Iowans need to be confident their votes matter, he said.

“To put it bluntly, if people don’t have confidence in the results of an election, then our nation has fallen,” Pate said. “Democracy has failed. With that, the Chinese and the Russians and North Koreans and all these folks who wanted this country to falter have won that war without firing a single bullet.”

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations. They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register's Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa's 4th District elections.

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