Capital Clicks

Out-of-state number called Iowan with election misinformation, secretary of state reports

By: - September 23, 2022 6:58 pm

Absentee ballots in a mailbox. (Photo by Jim Small/Arizona Mirror)

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said voters should be on the lookout for election misinformation after an Iowa voter reportedly received a phone call with incorrect voting instructions.

Pate’s office received information this week that a Mahaska County voter received a call from an out-of-state number. The caller told him that he did not need to return his absentee ballot to his county auditor’s office, but could just register his vote over the phone. Voting over the phone is not possible, and as the voter did not request an absentee ballot, he refused and reported the incident.

The Mahaska County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the call. Pate asked Iowans who have received similar calls to contact his office.

“That is a clear case of election disinformation, where someone is purposefully trying to mislead Iowa voters,” Pate said in a news release. “We have a great record of clean, fair elections in Iowa and election officials across the state are pushing back on this nonsense.”

Voters cannot cast their ballots by phone. An absentee ballot, which a voter must request, can be returned by mail or in person to their county auditor’s office. Voters can also cast their ballots in person on Election Day.

The call comes as election officials nationwide face growing misinformation and heightened distrust in election systems, following disputes over the results of the 2020 election when former President Donald Trump claimed voter fraud kept him from a second term. The Iowa Secretary of State’s Office expanded its efforts to assure voters that elections in Iowa are fair and accurate ahead of Nov. 8, urging voters with questions on the state’s procedures to talk with his office and county auditors.

False claims that Iowans can vote by phone is just one piece of misinformation that election officials are contesting. In August, Iowa Canvassing, a group which claimed the state faces widespread voter fraud, encouraged Iowans to challenge voter registrations in their counties. Some election skeptics believe that dead or inaccurately registered voters have participated in recent elections, and challenged registrations in an effort to take these voters off the rolls.

Iowa regularly conducts voter list maintenance, Pate said, and measures like Iowa’s Voter ID law prevent these types of incidents. Officials also conduct post-election audits to ensure results are correct. Pate called for people with questions to find answers on the Secretary of State’s election security webpage, which has been updated to answer questions on voter registrations and absentee voting procedures.

“Iowa is one of the top three states in the nation for election administration and we’re going to keep it that way by defending our process against grifters and people who want to sow doubt in our system,” Pate said.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.