Secretary of State Paul Pate runs for re-election to refine initiatives

Secretary of State Paul Pate is running for re-election so he can continue the work he started on voter ID, Safe at Home, and voter engagement.


Elianna Novitch, Politics Reporter

Secretary of State Paul Pate is running for re-election because he believes it’s important to have continuity in the work he has begun.

The 60-year-old Republican candidate is running for a third term against Democratic challenger Deidre DeJear. If re-elected, Pate hopes to continue his work on Iowa’s new voter-ID law, an address-confidentiality program for survivors of violence, and voter engagement.

“The mission’s not done,” he said. “There are so many things that we’re in the middle of that need to have continuity.”

Pate, a Kirkwood Community College graduate, also owns a small asphalt paving company in Marion. He and his wife, Jane, live in Cedar Rapids and have three children and five grandchildren.

Pate served as a state senator, representing Linn, Delaware, and Buchanan Counties, for six years beginning in 1989. He was first elected as Iowa’s secretary of state in 1994 and then served as mayor of Cedar Rapids in 2001.

In 2015, Pate returned to the Secretary of State’s Office 20 years after he was first elected to the position. One of the largest initiatives Pate has championed is the voter-ID law.

RELATED: Voter-ID law seen as unnecessary by some Iowa county auditors

The new law requires voters to bring identification to the polls beginning in 2019 in an effort to secure elections against suspected fraud. The Secretary of State’s Office provides free state IDs for registered voters in case Iowans don’t have valid ones.

Pate implemented a soft rollout of the law for the November midterm elections. At the polls this year, voters will be asked to show IDs before they vote, but they aren’t legally required to do so until 2019 and can sign an oath stating they are who they say they are.

“I felt that it was my role as commissioner of elections to get in front of [voter-ID legislation] and make sure that we’re listening to what Iowans said,” Pate said. “Polling showed about 70 percent of Iowans wanted a voter ID. My interpretation was because they felt they wanted to ensure the integrity of what their vote is.”

Pate cited a poll from the Des Moines Register that reported 69 percent of Iowans support a voter-ID law. Some — including student leaders at Iowa’s regent universities — have criticized the law saying it will disenfranchise voters, but Pate said that hasn’t been the case.

“This year we had over 40 special elections and a primary. The primary was the highest in our history for absentees. There were no major issues at all,” he said. “Did everyone bring an ID? Probably not, but that is why we did a soft rollout. I think each election cycle gets us closer to where people get it and do it.”

Pate’s office also implemented online voter registration. Within five months of the 2015 program’s launch, 10,000 Iowans had registered to vote online, according to the office’s website.

Pate said that under his watch, Iowa has seen a record number of active registered voters. According to the office’s website, the number of active registered voters is more than 2 million.

“We’ve got room to grow, but when you compare us to the other states, Iowans take their voting seriously,” he said.

Another initiative that Pate hopes to continue to promote if re-elected is the Safe at Home program, an address-confidentiality program for survivors of violence.

The program provides survivors with a substitute address so their real one is kept confidential. They can use the substitute address for mail-forwarding service and confidential voter registration and absentee voting. Pate said that the program has approximately 500 participants right now.

If re-elected, Pate said, he hopes to continue to educate people on the voter-ID law, make voting more accessible, and increase election participation.

“Those initiatives need to be followed through,” he said. “We’re making good progress, and we want to keep it on that path.”