Paul Pate Sets Voter ID Plans in Motion

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.

On Thursday, days ahead of the new legislative session set to begin Jan. 9, Secretary of State Paul Pate announced plans for a voter ID bill similar to those Republicans have introduced in other states to disenfranchise voters who traditionally support Democrats.

Pate did not present a draft of the bill yesterday but said he’s had “very positive” discussions with GOP leadership in the state Senate and House. The proposal’s ostensible purpose, according to Pate, is to “ensure that voters are who they say they are,” despite that there’s been virtually no evidence of voter fraud in the state, or any other. (Last year, an Iowa woman was hit with a felony election misconduct charge for voting twice for Donald Trump, apparently believing the candidate’s lies about widespread voter fraud.)

The bill could reflect language of model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative nonprofit that has pushed for voter ID laws in other states and counts Gov. Terry Branstad among its founding members.

Pate’s announcement was a predictable result of last November’s elections, which gave Iowa Republicans complete control of the state Legislature – a result that will allow the party to introduce a host of right-wing bills that for years ousted Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal was able to prevent from reaching Branstad’s desk.

Pate has long advocated for a voter ID law and other voter suppression measures. Last year, he successfully made his case as a defendant in a lawsuit that reached the Iowa Supreme Court that, had he lost, would have weakened the state’s felon disenfranchisement laws that are among the harshest in the nation. Pate’s predecessor, Matt Schultz, was even more aggressive against the specter of voter fraud, misusing $250,000 in federal funds intended to increase voters’ access to the polls on an investigation that uncovered virtually no evidence of voter fraud.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.