Pate asks Iowa lawmakers to make recount procedures uniform

DES MOINES — Iowa’s top election official is proposing uniform rules for election recounts and is asking legislators to beef up his training budget for election workers.

Secretary of State Paul Pate said Iowa is one of the top states in election integrity and random audits in all 99 counties of the 2023 city-school elections found results were 100% accurate. “But you can’t just rest on your laurels. There’s got to be constant work to improve on what we’re doing,” Pate said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “…The real frontier that we’re seeing right now that we have to step up to is helping our poll workers.”

Thirty of Iowa’s 99 county auditors will be overseeing their first presidential election in 2024 and Pate wants uniform training for them and for the Iowans who will be working in their local precincts this year. “We’ve got roughly 10,000 Iowans who are standing up for us to run those elections on election day. Those are the folks that your friends and neighbors…who’ll check you in, make sure you are where you’re supposed to be, making sure you have your ballot, making sure everything is done properly,” Pate said. “That’s a pretty heavy role when you’re talking about the 1600+ precincts across the state, so we want consistent training.”

Pate plans to hire more staff to accomplish that. Pate’s bill for uniformity in recounts would allow larger counties to have more than just three people on the county’s recount board. Pate said the 2020 recount of an Iowa congressional race — ultimately decided by six votes — illustrated the flaws in current law.

“This is a big election and if there’s any kind of a recount necessary at all, we need to be prepared,” Pate told Radio Iowa.

The bill Pate proposes also calls for all ballots to be accounted for in a recount. There were four recounts in a 2022 race for a seat in the Iowa House and the Scott County Auditor reported different absentee vote tallies as ballots were counted by hand and by machine. “If there were 5000 votes cast in that precinct or that county, we have to show through our process where those 5000 votes went. You don’t get to home and go: ‘Well, sorry. We can’t find those 250,’” Pate said. “No, no.”

Pate’s plan calls on recount boards to choose one form of counting — either by machine or by hand — before the counting begins.