In Dishonest Campaign Pitch, Pate Says His Voter ID Law Made “George Soros Howl”

The secretary of state also claimed there is a "price I'm paying" for fending off improper votes from "radical zealots" and felons his own party is responsible for disenfranchising

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Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is running for re-election in 2018 and he’s making his successful push earlier this year to pass voter ID legislation — a thinly veiled effort to suppress the vote — a centerpiece of his campaign platform.

In a fundraising email Tuesday asking for contributions of $10, $20, or $50 (read the full text at the end of this post), Pate again raised the virtually nonexistent specter of voter fraud to slam his Democratic critics and brag about his efforts to uphold so-called election integrity by leading the effort to get a voter ID law passed (Pate has said he plans to have the law in effect by the 2018 election). “As Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State, I made it happen,” he said in the email. “And the instant I did, you could hear the [sic] Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and George Soros howl. If they’d stop screaming long enough to listen, they’d learn that the overwhelming majority of Iowans are for it, almost half of Iowa Democrats.” (Soros, a billionaire philanthropist who opposes voter ID laws, is a popular boogeyman for conservatives and the subject of numerous unfounded conspiracy theories about his supposed election tampering and backing of paid protesters.)

“You don’t want some felon who is ineligible to vote or a radical zealot who thinks he can get away with voting multiple times to cancel out your vote,” Pate continued. “Because any vote fraud threatens the integrity of Iowa’s elections, I won’t let it happen.” In truth, many felons are ineligible to vote in Iowa to begin with because of Pate and his GOP allies including former Gov. Terry Branstad. The state is one of just four where most felons are permanently disenfranchised (the only exception being if they pay off onerous fines after their release from prison and receive direct approval from the governor through a complicated application process to regain their right to vote). Last year, Pate was the defendant in a lawsuit that went before the Iowa Supreme Court brought by a woman who was given the false impression she could vote again after completing her probation for a felony cocaine conviction. And she would have been able to, had Branstad not rescinded previous Gov. Tom Vilsack’s executive order that automatically restored felons’ voting rights upon the completion of their sentences. (The Supreme Court ruled in Pate’s favor.)

In his email, Pate cast himself as a victim, claiming “there’s a price I’m paying” for supposedly preventing fraud in Iowa elections. But there’s no real evidence he’s done this. In February, three months after the 2016 election, Pate’s office had only been made aware of 10 votes that may have been improper out of 1.6 million cast. The previous October, one person — a Trump supporter from Des Moines — was charged with voter fraud for casting two early votes for the soon-to-be president. This July, the Linn County auditor flagged five property owners believed to have cast votes both in the county and out of state — hardly evidence of widespread fraud, and likely improper votes that would have been caught without Pate’s supposed anti-fraud efforts.

In fact, Pate’s predecessor, fellow Republican Matt Schultz, essentially — if accidentally — proved that voter fraud was virtually nonexistent in Iowa, launching an anti-fraud dragnet funded by $250,000 in federal funds intended to increase access to the polls that found only a handful of potentially improper votes, most of them from people who’d cast them without knowing they would be invalid.

Pate then took a shot at one of his Democratic challengers, Iraq war vet Jim Mowrer, accusing him of previously running “vicious campaigns against Republican Congressmen Steve King and David Young” and alleging that his Democratic allies would “pull out all the stops; [sic] negative ads, deceptive self-mailers, bogus phone polls, THE WORKS.”

In his money ask, Pate said he’d “seen the difference an outpouring of conservative support has done to help some of our greatest conservative champions like Ben Carson, Senator Chuck Grassley, Senator Joni Ernst and others.” Carson, a former presidential candidate who has dismissed voter ID laws’ tendency to disenfranchise minorities, is currently serving as the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development despite having no previous relevant experience.

“P.S.,” Pate’s email ends, “The Democrats figure if they seize control of the Secretary of State’s Office, they can control Iowa’s elections. Do you trust them to be fair?” Left unmentioned: In 1997, the Iowa State Ethics Commission reprimanded Pate, who was serving as secretary of state then, too, for using his office’s resources to promote his gubernatorial bid.

Here’s the full text of Pate’s fundraising email:

EASY TO VOTE, HARD TO CHEAT

It just makes sense; when you vote, you show an I.D. so the registrar knows you are who you say you are. It’s an extra verification step that safeguards the accuracy of our elections by making it easy to vote and hard to cheat. As Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State, I made it happen. And the instant I did, you could hear the Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and George Soros howl. If they’d stop screaming long enough to listen, they’d learn that the overwhelming majority of Iowans are for it, almost half of Iowa Democrats.

You don’t want some felon who is ineligible to vote or a radical zealot who thinks he can get away with voting multiple times to cancel out your vote. Because any vote fraud threatens the integrity of Iowa’s elections, I won’t let it happen. But there’s a price I’m paying for my actions.

Iowa Democrats have made my defeat a priority. They’ve recruited the same hard-charging negative challenger who ran vicious campaigns against Republican Congressmen Steve King and David Young as my opponent. We’ll run a no-frills, bare-bones, grassroots volunteer-driven campaign but they’ll pull out all the stops; negative ads, deceptive self-mailers, bogus phone polls, THE WORKS.

I’ll need your strong support to win, /Salutation/. It takes only a small effort to make a BIG difference. Your online contribution of $10, $20 or $50 will give us a BIG boost. CLICK HERE NOW

I’ve seen the difference an outpouring of conservative support has done to help some of our greatest conservative champions like Ben Carson, Senator Chuck Grassley, Senator Joni Ernst and others. When like-minded Republicans join together to challenge the status quo and fight for bold, sweeping conservative change, GREAT THINGS HAPPEN.

Let me know you’re with me! GET INVOLVED. CLICK HERE

Your friend,

Secretary of State Paul Pate
P.S. The Democrats figure if they seize control of the Secretary of State’s Office, they can control Iowa’s elections. Do you trust them to be fair?

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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.