Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is disputing an analysis that showed eight counties in the state had more registered voters than their total voting-eligible populations—by a total of nearly 19,000.
The analysis, based on 2017 and 2018 data, was released Feb. 3 by Judicial Watch (JW), a conservative nonprofit that describes itself as promoting “transparency, accountability, and integrity in government, politics and the law.” The organization says its “baseline analysis” is correct, even though it used older data.
The office of Pate, a Republican, said the JW numbers were “patently false.”
“Its unfortunate this organization continues to put out inaccurate data regarding voter registration, and its especially disconcerting they chose the day of the Iowa Caucus to do this,” Pate said in a Feb. 2 statement.
“My office has told this organization, and others who have made similar claims, that their data regarding Iowa is deeply flawed and their false claims erode voter confidence in elections.”
JW President Tom Fitton fired back in a Feb. 3 statement: “It is shameful that the secretary of state of Iowa would mislead Iowans and Americans about the accuracy of the states registration rolls.”
Where Is the Data From?
JW relied on 2018 voter registration data that Iowa provided to the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in its analysis. Pate relies on data his office releases every month.
“JW admitted they used old data,” said Kevin Hall, Pates communications director, in an email to The Epoch Times.
The original JW release did say it was based on EAC data released in 2019, but didnt indicate the data was from 2018.
“The EAC data is the gold standard,” Fitton said in a telephone interview with The Epoch Times. He said that JW has successfully used analyses of EAC data in several lawsuits in other states. He questioned the reliability of the data on the SOS website, calling it “informal.”
There are indeed discrepancies between the two data sets. In the EAC data, Iowa had nearly 2.2 million registered voters in 2018. The Secretary of States (SOS) website data shows a number nearly 24,000 lower as of Nov. 1, 2018 (pdf). The November SOS data seems the most comparable to the EAC data. The EAC asks states (pdf) for the counts of “individuals who were registered and eligible to vote in the 2018 general election.” Election day was on Nov. 6, 2018, and Iowa allows voters to register up to and including election day.
As of Feb. 3, 2020, the SOS data showed about 2.16 million registered voters (pdf). It appears the state has gone to some lengths in recent years to clean up its voter rolls. The SOS data shows, for instance, that between January and February 2017, more than 75,000 names were purged from the rolls.
The SOS also said JW “greatly underestimated” Iowas population counts. JW relied on the Census Bureaus 2017 counts of citizens over the age of 18. When parsed with the EAC data, eight Iowa counties indeed had registration rates of over 100 percent.
JW said in its original release that it used “the most recent” Census Bureau data, but three days before JW published its analysis, the Census Bureau released the 2018 data, which showed a less than 0.5 percent increase in Iowas eligible voting population. It isnt clear how much the eligible population has changed since then.
Census Bureau estimates show a 1 percent rise in Iowas population over 18 years old between 2018 and 2019. But those numbers include non-citizens. Iowas population has grown in a large part due to an inflow of immigrants, Migration Policy Institute data indicates. It isnt clear how much has the population growth has bumped the electorate.
The Census Bureau is only slated to release 2019 estimates for citizens over 18 years old in 2021.
Comparing the 2018 Census data and the 2018 EAC data, Iowa still had seven counties with more than 100 percent eligible population registered. Using the latest SOS numbers (from February) instead of the EAC data, five counties still had over 100 percent registration.
All five of those counties have increased their population since 2018, Hall pointed out. Indeed, 2019 Census data shows growth between roughly 0.3 and 7 percent. But those are numbers for the entire population, and arent limited to eligible voters.
He says 17-year-olds can register to vote in Iowa and including them “skews” JWs numbers. He said there were 5,000 of them registered as of Feb. 4, which is less than a quarter of a percent of the states registrations. Also, EAC asks states to exclude “persons under the age of 18 registered under a pre-registration program.”
The Secretary of States office didnt respond to a question about what kind of data it provided to EAC.
Fitton said in an email to The Epoch Times that the newer data “is consistent with our baseline analysis.”
Dirty Voting Rolls
Impossibly high registration rates arent necessarily evidence of voter fraud.
Sometimes, people remain on voter rolls after theyve left the state or died and, over time, faulty records can accumulate. Also, removing records of those whove left the state takes time, because federal law requires the state to send people a notice to confirm their address. Only if people fail to respond and dont vote in two federal election cycles can the state remove them.
Still, states have an obligation to exert “reasonable effort” to clean up their voter rolls, under the National Voter Registration Act (_