Paul Pate

Paul Pate

Secretary of State Paul Pate says computer systems for voter registrations in Iowa and for registering new Iowa businesses are “running on fumes” and he’s seeking a cash infusion.

“We are really depleting every single reserve fund we have,” Pate says. “That’s why I say we’re on the fumes level.”

Pate’s office works with county auditors to manage elections in Iowa. Federal “Help America Vote Act” money has been used up. Plus, Pate says his agency hasn’t gotten a state funding increase in eight years.

“(The) Elections (division), as it is right now, is running on fumes,” Pate says. “…When we run into ’18, that’s it. We will not be able to do several major components of elections without some additional funding.”

Seventy-one Iowa counties have voter registration information in a digital format. Pate and his staff say it would take about $600,000 to convert the paper records in the other 28 counties into “electronic poll books.”

“It would help us with the integrity side because we would have the most current information in front of them, so that when a voter walks into a polling site, we would know if they were an eligible elector,” Pate says. “There would be no doubt in our mind. We’d be able to sit there and cross-reference it with all the lists we’ve worked so hard to put together.”

Pate says there’s been no real upgrade to the computer software in his office for managing voter registration data since 2003, despite major changes in election law — like same-day voter registration.

“We have kind of baling wire and duct tape here a little bit to try to make it fit,” Pate says.

Pate made the pitch for more money to Governor Terry Branstad Monday afternoon. Branstad says the state budget will be “tight,” but he’d like to find a way to get these updates done before the 2018 General Election.

“That’s a way we could ensure the people of Iowa that we’re doing all we can to protect the integrity of the process, avoid fraudulent activities and people maybe voting twice or people that are ineligible voting or making sure that people that are eligible are not denied the opportunity to vote,” Branstad says.

In addition, Pate’s office took in paperwork to register 20,000 new Iowa businesses this past year. Pate says the computer system that manages those registrations is ancient.

“I’m not exaggerating, but I’m telling you come May 31, our vendors will no longer be servicing us,” Pate says. “Our systems are far too old and the parts for our systems…have not really been touched since I was secretary of state 20 years ago and what we’re faced with is…we will have to go to eBay to get parts.”

Pate says he has no more options left and doesn’t have “a rabbit to pull out of a hat” to fix these digital dilemmas without a state budget boost.