Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate’s office does not appear to be very good at math. That’s a bit of a problem considering they’re in charge of making sure the votes get counted in this state. And it could have caused problems for candidates running in Iowa’s 2nd and 3rd Congressional districts had they been using the incorrect numbers Pate’s office provided for petition signature amounts up until last week.
To get on the ballot in Iowa, candidates must collect a certain number of signatures of eligible voters in their district. The math gets a little complicated for the congressional and statewide races, as you must get a particular amount of signatures from individual counties, as well as an overall total from the district based on the percentage of each party’s top-of-ticket total votes in the previous election.
Pate’s office listed the wrong numbers in two districts. In the 2nd District, they had flipped the totals for the parties – Pate had the Republicans needing 1,708 overall signatures and the Democrats needing 1,864, when it should have been the Republicans with the higher total. The 3rd District Republican amount was just completely wrong, listed as 1,710 for the district, when in reality it should have been 1,930 (see photo of the original incorrect information below).
Pate’s office updated the signature requirement info with the correct numbers after being questioned about it by the Associated Press’ Ryan Foley. Pate’s spokesperson told the AP they were contacting the campaigns running in those races to make sure they had the correct numbers now.
Now, it’s unlikely this would have kept any Iowa candidate off the ballot. Every serious campaign usually turns in more signatures than they need, but there have been instances in other states where disorganized operations have fallen just short of the required amount. A rushed, last-minute entrant into a race very well could have come up under the amount if the posted number was off by a few hundred. And this is a basic, very important function of the secretary of state’s office that needs to be done accurately so candidates have the right information.
It’s also one more in a series of questionable developments coming out of Pate’s office. The AP reported last month that Pate hasn’t attended in person to over half of the meetings held by the Executive Council, the group of statewide elected officials. He called in for the meeting 21 times and was completely absent for 20 of the 76 meetings held during his most recent term in office. Pate has also assigned some of his deputies to take his place on other committees he’s a member of.
Perhaps if Pate was around in the office more often, simple yet important mistakes like these wouldn’t happen so often. And maybe crucial screw-ups, like the 5,842 votes that went completely uncounted in Dallas County, might have been caught in time with a little more oversight. It makes some wonder if he’s really all that into his job.
by Pat Rynard