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JOHNSTON — Paul Pate, the Republican incumbent in the 2022 campaign to be Iowa’s statewide elections official, defended some of Iowa’s recently approved changes to state elections laws, while offering more of a shrug to others.
Joel Miller, the Democratic challenger in the campaign, argued that some of the recent changes are unfair to voters even though recent state elections have resulted in high, sometimes record turnout.
Pate and Miller discussed those and myriad other elections and voting issues during their appearance Friday on this weekend’s episode of “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS.
The discussion between the candidates grew heated at times.
Miller criticized Pate for recent changes to state elections laws that, among other things, limited the state’s early voting period by cutting it by more than half from 40 days to 19 and requiring that all early ballots be received by local elections officials by the time polls close on Election Day.
Those changes — and others that also placed restrictions on the state’s early voting options — were passed by Republican state lawmakers and Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. Pate as Secretary of State is not involved in passing legislation, although he can advocate for policies if he chooses.
“We need to make voting easier. It became harder after the 2021 election laws were passed, and that was an attack upon vote by mail and early voting,” Miller said on the show. “Things changed and people are just thinking the government doesn’t care and doesn’t really want them to vote, and they didn’t vote.”
Iowa had record turnout in the 2020 elections. During those elections, absentee voting rules were relaxed to accommodate voters during the early peaks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the changes to state elections laws that reduced early voting opportunities, this year’s primary election in June had the second-highest early voting numbers in state history, and the second-highest overall turnout for a primary election since 1994.
Miller also criticized Pate for not disavowing former President Donald Trump and others in Trump’s circle who have repeated the false and widely debunked claim that the 2020 presidential election results were fraudulent.
Pate said his office has been producing statements and other information that pushes back on lies and distorted facts about elections in Iowa.
“I think Mr. Miller needs to focus a little more on the message I put out every day. As I visit with groups and individuals, I’m very clear that these are the facts about Iowa’s elections and these folks out there passing around disinformation, misinformation are wrong,” Pate said.
When asked, Pate said he “most certainly” commits to certifying the results of the 2024 presidential election in Iowa.
“And that’s the way it should be: States run elections and as they certify their state, that should be the official results,” Pate said. “I would remind people as the Secretary of State you don’t get to wear a team jersey; you’re the referee. So you follow the laws and the rules that you have on the books. And when you look at the last presidential election, if we follow the laws on the books like we did here in Iowa then we have a legitimate winner and we need to recognize that.”
“Iowa Press” can be seen at 7:30 p.m. today and noon on Sunday, or online at iowapbs.org.
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