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Government

Pate pushes back on Democratic report citing election vulnerabilities

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate speaks at the Office of Chief Information Officer for the State of Iowa's Security Operations Center in the Hoover State Office Building in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jun. 5, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate speaks at the Office of Chief Information Officer for the State of Iowa's Security Operations Center in the Hoover State Office Building in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jun. 5, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Although Iowa is addressing voting security issues, a study for U.S. House Democrats found the state is among 18 states with the most vulnerable election infrastructures.

Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate called the report a partisan attack that ignored facts and his Democratic challenger Deidre DeJear used the report to criticize him for failing to do more to protect Iowa elections.

Iowa was included in Tier 3 in an election security update released by Democratic members of the Committee on House Administration ahead of President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It is now well-known that Russian hackers targeted voter registration databases in at least 21 states and attempted to access credentials of election technology vendors and election officials,” the Democrats wrote. “If these attacks had succeeded, hackers could have deleted voter registration records, altered poll books, caused chaos on Election Day, and potentially swayed the results of the election.”

Pate wasted time looking for voter fraud “while the focus should have been on foreign actors,” DeJear said.

“Pate likes to tell voters he is focused on protecting our elections, yet over a year after we first learned of attempted attacks on our elections, Iowa still is among the most vulnerable states in the country.”

Iowa was targeted by hackers, but Pate noted that the state’s voting system was not compromised. Iowa uses paper ballots, which creates a paper trail for every vote and is not susceptible to internet hacking, he said.

Pate was skeptical of the Democrats’ report, calling it a “wildly inconsistent and misleading report from a partisan committee” that made no attempt to contact his office.

Although Iowa requires postelection audits, the Democrats’ report said they look at a statistically significant number of ballots. The audits should be more “robust,” Democrats said, and should be binding on the official election outcome.

Fortunately, DeJear said, postelection audits are an “easy, safe way to ensure that each and every vote counts.”

“As Secretary of State, I will make this my number one priority,” she said. “I only wish I could do something about it now.”

The Secretary of State Office pointed out that because Iowa uses paper ballots, a paper trail automatically is created for every vote. Under Iowa law, an administrative recount following results of a postelection audit can be conducted at the request of any candidate or county auditor.

To improve election security, Iowa has requested its $4.6 million in federal Election Assistance Commission funds and asked the Iowa Legislature for $7 million to help upgrade the voter registration database.

Pate is conducting cybersecurity workshops with county auditors and will begin requiring two-step authentication for access to Iowa’s voter registration database.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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