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Iowa Secretary of State Pate refutes claims of rigged election

Calls Iowa's system fair, honest

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DES MOINES — Iowa’s election commissioner Monday emphatically refuted any contentions by political candidates that this year’s Nov. 8 general election is rigged in any way

“This state has a pretty darn good track record and I really resent anybody trying to blemish it,” said Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, who plays a dual role as the state’s election commissioner. He said anyone who has evidence or concern about the integrity and fairness of Iowa’s voting process should contact is office so he can investigate any allegations; otherwise he hoped politicians would “knock it off” and focus on the issues important to Iowans.

“Iowa has got one of the cleanest, best election systems in the country and I guarantee every eligible Iowa voter will be able to cast their ballot for the Nov. 8 election,” added Pate, who said he wanted to clear away any “smoke” over rigged elections by noting the many checks and balances Iowa has to maintain integrity and ferret out fraud.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump repeatedly has contended America’s 2016 election is “rigged,” issuing a tweet Monday saying “Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before Election Day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!”

Pate said Trump may be referred to his experience as a New Yorker but Iowa has a tradition of clean, honest elections.

“If there’s something else, please Mr. Trump, tell us what it is and I will have my staff immediately look into it and pursue it with all the vigor and authority that this office has, and that applies to anybody because the last thing I want is an Iowan who thinks that their vote doesn’t count,” the secretary added. “They’re not demonstrating there’s any proof that there’s these issues. What they’re doing is trying to distract, in my opinion, from what the real election issues are. Voting is far too important.”

Gov. Terry Branstad, a six-term Republican who is backing Trump in the 2016 presidential matchup with Democrat Hillary Clinton, said he trusts Iowa’s system and its voters, but he expressed concern there is “collusion” between the national media and Clinton to help get her elected next month.

“The integrity of our electoral process is critically important and a lot of people are very skeptical today because they see the bias of the national press, they see what they consider to be collusion between the Clinton machine,” the governor told his weekly news conference.

“The national media is trying to influence people in the decisions that they’re going to make in this election,” he added. “We’re saying the public needs to be given fair and balanced information so they can make their own decision and not just one-sided bias that is focused on attacking one side and not giving people a complete picture of the different stands of the candidates.”

Pate said the question of media bias versus the contention of a rigged election system present “apples and oranges” issues that need to be considered separately, and while he is sympathetic the bias contentions he is “actually very angry” about talk if election fraud or other claims that might discourage Iowans from participating.

“Our election system is not on the internet, we do not vote by email,” Pate said in a telephone interview, noting Iowans fill out paper ballots in 99 counties that are counted electronically under the close scrutiny of trained poll workers and poll watchers and later verified by canvassers.

Several polls released Monday suggested many of Trump’s backers think the election could be stolen from their candidate and were not assured the votes for president will be “accurately counted” this year.

Branstad said he has confidence in Iowa’s election because state and local officials “do their level best” to make sure balloting is “fair and honest” but he conceded the process is not perfect despite all the vigilance to thwart cheaters.

For all of The Gazette's Election 2016 coverage, please visit our election coverage center.

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