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An Election for the Ages

2020 Election Voters

December 14, 2020

Iowans’ remarkable level of civic engagement is unrivaled by any other state. We proved that again on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

2020 Voter Engagement

The State Board of Canvass officially certified Iowa’s 2020 general election last week. The results showed that more than 1.7 million Iowans cast ballots, shattering the previous high by more than 100,000. Additionally, 76% of registered voters participated. That was one of the highest turnout rates in the nation this year.

Every county in the state surpassed 65% turnout and 14 counties surpassed 80%. Harrison County led the way with 87.5% turnout.


Absentee Voters

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we took steps to reduce lines and crowds at polling places on Election Day. My office mailed absentee ballot request forms to every active registered voter in the state. The response was overwhelming. Although Election Day was still busy, more than 1 million Iowans voted absentee. That set another state record.

Registered Voters

We also set a new high for the most active registered voters in state history, both on Sunday, November 1, and again on Tuesday, December 1. The current total is 2,123,217. We had never surpassed 2.1 million before this year.

U.S. House Race Recount

Iowa had what appears to be the closest U.S. House race in the country this year, and perhaps the closest one in decades. Following a recount of all 24 counties in Iowa’s Second Congressional District, the margin between Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Rita Hart is just six votes, 196,964-196,958. The State of Iowa officially certified Miller-Meeks as the winner of the race. The recount was conducted in an open and transparent manner, with representatives from both campaigns participating in all 24 counties.

Voter Protections

No election goes perfectly. In one Des Moines precinct, too much hand sanitizer got on ballots and jammed up one of the vote tabulating machines. Some counties had issues with poll workers coming down with COVID-19 in the days before the election and they had to find replacements. Due to human error, a couple of counties posted erroneous numbers in their unofficial totals. However, thanks to the checks and balances we have in place in Iowa, those errors were caught before the results were certified.

Iowa’s elections are protected in a variety of ways. We vote on paper ballots and conduct post-election audits in all 99 counties that confirm the accuracy of the vote totals. We also have bipartisan teams processing the ballots.

I want to thank Iowa voters, poll workers, county election officials and my staff. This was an election like no other and everyone stepped up. Record turnout during a pandemic is an amazing achievement. Also, huge thanks to our state and federal partners for helping us provide a safe and secure election. This was a team effort.

We worked hard to keep polling places safe from the risk of COVID-19. My office distributed 145,000 gloves, almost 200,000 masks, 11,000 social distancing markers and 1,500 gallons of hand sanitizer to the counties to use at polling places on Election Day. That helped protect voters and poll workers. We also made more than $2 million in grant funds available for the counties for other supplies.

The integrity of the vote and the safety of voters are my top priorities. We committed vast resources to ensure both were protected. Seeing Iowans vote in record numbers made me very proud of this state and proud to be an Iowan.

The Partnership's Public Policy team engages with local, state and federal officials to create public policy that generates economic growth, business prosperity and talent development in Greater Des Moines (DSM). The Partnership is a nonpartisan organization.

Paul Pate

Paul Pate is serving his third term as Iowa's Secretary of State. His office oversees elections and business filings for Iowa. Pate has won national awards for voter education and election cybersecurity. He is also a nationally recognized small business leader. Paul and his wife Jane live in Cedar Rapids.