Three weeks before the 2016 election, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate pushed back hard on the idea that the vote could be “rigged.” At the time, the rumor of an unfair vote was being stoked by Donald Trump, the presidential nominee of Pate's party, who was solidly ahead in Iowa polls. Anyone worried about “rigging,” said Pate, was being misled.
“This state has a pretty darn good track record and I really resent anybody trying to blemish it,” said Pate, according to the eastern Iowa Gazette. “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.”
But this week, after a surprisingly broad Republican sweep of Iowa, Pate is proposing a voter ID law for Iowa, which would allow driver's licenses, passports, and military IDs for voting, but not student IDs. The proposed law also includes measures that would shrink the amount of time to request an absentee ballot and require an ID number for requesting one.
“I believe Iowa's elections are clean and fair,” said Pate at a news conference. “But we need to take steps to keep them that way. It's like locking the door at your home when you leave for work in the morning or you go to bed at night.”
Nothing about Pate's analysis had changed since Election Day. Iowa, in fact, had become a source of chagrin for voter ID campaigners, several times. Pate's predecessor, Matt Schultz, spent two years and $250,000 to probe cases of illegal voting across the state. That found just 117 illegally cast votes, charges against 27 suspected fraudulent voters, and six fraud convictions, in elections where more than 1.4 million people went to the polls. In October, Iowa drew national attention when a Trump supporter, panicked over election “rigging,” voted twice.
In reality, Trump and Republicans enjoyed a near-total rout in Iowa. Trump won the state by 10 points, the biggest victory for a Republican presidential candidate in Iowa since Ronald Reagan's 1980 landslide. More important for Pate, Republicans rode Trump's coattails to take control of the state senate, ousting the Democrats' leader in that chamber after he'd served 32 years in office. Before the election, a voter ID law was sure to lose in the Senate; it's now got a clear path to passage.