Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pate Relaunch Nothing Much

Paul Pate 6.0 is relaunching this week. The grunge-era Secretary of State, returning to office on less than 50% of the vote, spoke Wednesday at a Republican breakfast in Des Moines, and appeared in a couple newspaper pieces.

Kathie Obradovich was live tweeting the breakfast, and Team Paul Danny chose to retweet some of the bon mots he considered most significant.
This?!? THIS is you big thing?

"I believe no one should be touching your absentee ballot except you, an authorized election official or a postal worker," Pate said back in September, addressing a problem that wasn't really a problem. The idea is to end the practice of "chasing," where campaign volunteers and staffers pick up ballots from voters and deliver them to auditor's offices.

I only know of one significant ballot chasing problem in my 13 general election cycles in the state, a 2002 situation where Democrats hurt their own team (an exhausted staffer forgot to turn in ballots in Election Day).

The response even then was overkill: Chet Culver's "ballot courier" law that limited who could chase ballots in 2004 and 2006. There were mandatory yet pointless training sessions (summary: duh, you have to bring the ballots back), a tedious check in process, and cumbersome paperwork.

The main effect of the courier law: Countless times in 2004 and 2006, I had to tell people they couldn't hand in their spouses's ballot, or their 90 year old mom's ballot. The absurd solution: directing them to the mail box outside.

The more effective change was an unfunded mandate: counties are required to pay return postage on mailed absentees. I don't have numbers, but just anecdotally it seems like fewer ballots are getting chased and more are getting mailed. So "no one should be touching your absentee ballot except you, an authorized election official or a postal worker" is a lot like the theatre of airport scanners: making things more complicates is supposed to make you feel more secure, but doesn't really solve anything.
Paul should have studied, instead of just relying on what he remembered from 1996: military folks and overseas citizens already have access to emailed ballots.

Here's one Pate didn't retweet.
Instead, he shared this:
Pate paid homage to post-Obama Republican base orthodoxy on voter ID, but he's enough of a pragmatist to tone it down now that the election is over.

That's a realistic attitude. Anything is an improvement over the hyper-partisanship of the Matt Schultz era (just don't commit voter fraud in Madison County!). The reality is, no major changes in Iowa voter law will happen until one party has a trifecta again. That's how election day registration and changing the length of school board terms happened.

 That's a real issue. There's some cross state matching, and it's slowly improving, but most out of state cancellations rely on self-reported data. When you graduate from the UI and move back to Aurora, and eight years later when you have kids going to school and you decide to start voting, you need to remember that you registered in Iowa that one time to vote in a bar election. And then Aurora needs to send that notice back to Iowa. (No one gets canceled just for not voting.)

But ultimately, that's a federal issue, just like voter ID is a legislative issue. Pate seems to realize that in Iowa, Secretary of State is part administrator, part bully pulpit. (And, based on past secretaries Baxter, Culver, Pate, and Schultz, part campaign launching pad.)

Pate's also using his bully pulpit to talk caucus issues. He seems to think the Iowa parties should hire caucus consultants to help run the show. While I might apply for that job, I'm not sure it's needed. That almost feels like a backhanded slap at the party activists... but given the problems the Iowa Republicans had in 2012, I can see why.

Pate also said no one who endorses a 2016 presidential candidate should be involved in process of reporting the precinct results.

His points of emphasis are interesting because they illustrate the deep differences in how the two parties run the caucuses.  As I've followed Iowa GOP politics from the outside, I've seen a huge huge emphasis on endorsement and internal process. There seems to be a strong feeling that anyone in an Official party position should refrain from or be restrained from making a formal endorsement.

The real problem with the 2012 Republican caucuses wasn't that it was a tie. Anybody can have a close election. And it wasn't that Matt Strawn "declared" a winner, and it wasn't the "certification" process. Those items made Iowa - not the Iowa Republicans, IOWA - look bad, and I'll support whatever makes the caucuses stronger for both parties. But those weren't the real problems.

The real problem was that Ron Paul finished third but got all the delegates, exposing the fact that the "straw vote" had no direct relation to the delegates.

Democrats see the caucuses' problems from a completely different angle. We, or at least the DNC, sees the problem as inclusiveness. And that's amplified because the person who made that argument in 2007 is now the near certain 2016 nominee.

I'm leery of the "satellite caucus" thing. I preferred a tightly controlled proxy/absentee process, though I can see the worries about people going two places. But as a credentials guy, it's logistically harder to assign the delegates and do the math. And I just have this gut feeling that Team Hillary will overkill the satellite caucus idea just like they used to overkill Sign War.

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