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Iowa election security measures in place for primary, officials say

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate
Posted at 8:24 PM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-06 21:24:12-04

Iowa and national agency officials said Monday they were working to counter a growing distrust of elections by discussing measures to ensure security of Tuesday’s primary vote.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate held a press conference Monday to discuss measures to prevent election fraud and tampering both at the ballot box and in early voting – in addition to their efforts to stop the spread of misinformation.

“Here is our message to Iowans: We are dedicated to protecting the integrity of our elections and the sanctity of your vote,” Pate said.

In the build-up to the primary election, officials continued working to tackle growing mistrust in elections. Misinformation about the voting and vote-counting process spread on social media have created confusion about how elections work across the country.

In May, the Secretary of State’s Office brought in members of the public and press to watch officials test the tabulators in Scott County to show how the process works in Iowa, as well as explaining procedures like audits and inventory tracking on ballots.

“You can’t hack a paper ballot,” Pate said. “And we have integrity measures like Voter ID, post-election audits, and bipartisan teams of poll workers built into the system to ensure the process is fair.”

But many people who have concerns about election security are drawing from stories they’ve seen on social media, Pate said. His office has worked to counter false stories and disinformation about Iowa’s voting processes. The Secretary of State’s Office is working alongside federal agencies to stop the spread of misinformation online, he said, and to target bad actors attempting to interfere with American elections.

Pate was joined at the news conference by leaders from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the state Office of the Chief Information Officer.

Senior Election Security Lead Kim Wyman of the federal cybersecurity agency shared a story of when national security officials found Iranian and Russian actors had obtained information on American voter records, less than two weeks before the 2020 election. Iran sent emails intimidating voters and implying ballots were being cast in the election illegally, according to federal officials.

Federal agencies worked with state and local election officials as well as law enforcement to address the issue, Wyman said, and information was declassified and shared so the public knew how foreign actors had attempted to interfere in the election process.

“We didn’t do that in 2016, because we didn’t have this whole government approach to cybersecurity defense and infrastructure of our election security,” Wyman said. “We’re making progress. It’s as Secretary Pate said, it’s a race without a finish line.”

Polls will be open Tuesday, June 7 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the primary election. Early voting in Iowa started May 18, with in-person and mail-in options. Mailed and absentee ballots must be received by the voter’s county auditor by 8 p.m. Tuesday to be counted. Voters should not try to mail ballots on Monday or Tuesday.

Pate said he and security officials will spend Tuesday in the Lucas State Office Building, monitoring elections for potential threats or interference. 

“We feel pretty confident,” Pate said. “We’re seeing good voter participation in terms of early voting, so I want to encourage everyone to get out there and vote tomorrow.”

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: info@iowacapitaldispatch.com. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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