Iowa Supreme Court denies Linn Auditor’s and Teig’s appeals

September 17, 2020

Justice denied.

Posted by Joel D Miller – Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

Appeal020 Order Denying Application 091620.pdf

Pate’s consumer fraud complaint against Miller resolved

September 11, 2020

Today, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (no relation) issued a reply to Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate’s allegation that I violated Iowa’s Consumer Fraud Act. AG Miller will not be proceeding with an investigation per the reasons included in the letter.

I do admit that I am guilty of trying to make voting easier while maintaining the integrity of system. I am not guilty of anything more. Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

Pate letter 9.11.2020 fnl.pdf

AG Miller Letter 8 25 20.pdf

Gookin analysis 8 25 20.pdf

NEWS RELEASE: Action steps following prefilled absentee mailer decision

August 27, 2020

Per my previous post, i.e., Thornhill grants temporary injunction, here is the follow up news release. If you have questions, concerns, or comments, please send them to Auditor Miller.  I will be monitoring LiveChat from time to time this evening at https://direct.lc.chat/11882391/ , which is another way to reach me.

Unfortunately, the County’s phone system is still out of service due to the Derecho and I will not be granting any on camera interviews until tomorrow afternoon. Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

For Immediate Release

August 27, 2020

Action Steps Following Absentee Mailer Decision

LINN COUNTY, IA – August 27, 2020 – The Linn County Auditor’s Office acknowledges the August 27, 2020 court decision involving the Republican National Committee et al vs. Joel Miller.

Absentee Ballot Request Forms

In accordance with the decision, the Linn County Auditor’s Office will be voiding each Linn County absentee request form which was prefilled with voter information. Absentee request forms from other organizations will continue to be considered valid, unless the application lacked any required information. As before, the Auditor’s Office will notify voters of incomplete applications.

The Linn County Auditor’s Office will mail a new absentee ballot request form and return envelope to each impacted voter in mid-September. In addition, the Secretary of State will be sending separate absentee request forms to all voters in the next few weeks. Voters may also access a new request form at LinnCounty.org/Vote.

Voters only need to submit one request form. However, voters should rest assured that even if they submit multiple requests, they will only receive one ballot. The Auditor’s Office keeps track of every submitted request, but it only allows one ballot per person. That is, one voter = one ballot.

In accordance with state law, the Auditor’s Office will mail ballots starting Monday, October 5. Voters have until 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 24 to submit absentee request forms.

Voting Options

Voters may choose to vote using the following voting options:

Election Day Voting

Election day polling places will be open. Note that due to COVID-19 and the derecho storm, many polling locations will change. The Linn County Auditor’s Office will be publishing the November 3, 2020 polling places within the next few days. Each registered voter household will receive a postcard indicating their updated polling location in early October.

In-person Early Voting

The Linn County Auditor’s Office will offer early, in-person voting opportunities at Lindale Mall and at 823 3rd St SW in Cedar Rapids across from the Linn County Public Service Center. Early voting will begin October 5. Exact times will be distributed to the media in the next week.

Mailing Absentee Ballots

Absentee voters may return their ballot by mail. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked on or before Monday, November 2, 2020 in order to be counted.

Drop Boxes

Drop boxes are in place as an alternative to mailing absentee ballots. The Linn County Auditor’s Office has four secure drop boxes for voters to deposit their absentee ballot request forms and ballots. These drop boxes are on 24/7 video security and contents are collected by a bi-partisan Republican and Democrat team each weekday. The drop boxes are located at:

o Linn County Public Service Center, 935 2nd St. SW, Cedar Rapids

o Marion Hy-Vee, 3600 Business Highway 151, Marion

o Edgewood Hy-Vee, 5050 Edgewood Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

o Johnson Avenue Hy-Vee, 1843 Johnson Ave NW, Cedar Rapids

The drop boxes will be open until 9 p.m. on election day, Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

Auditor Miller is continuing to consult with legal counsel regarding his options.

The Auditor’s Office acknowledges the confusion and concerns that voters may have. Questions regarding absentee voting may be answered by visiting elections. or calling 319-892-5300, option 1. Phone service may be temporarily unavailable. As of Thursday, August 27, the Linn County Auditor’s Office phone is not working due to the impact of the derecho storm. As a reminder, Linn County offices are open by appointment only due to COVID-19. To schedule an appointment with the Auditor’s Office, call the number above or email elections ###

Thornhill grants temporary injunction

August 27, 2020

Judge Thornhill granted a temporary injunction in RNC v Miller. Press release from the Office of Linn County Auditor coming soon. Joel D Miller – Linn County Auditor

Thornhill Order Granting Injunction.PDF

Election officials should baseline the USPS now

August 5, 2020

One of my biggest fears with the upcoming general election is that my office mails out 80,000 to 100,000 absentee ballots on October 5th, and 10,000 of them are not returned in time to be counted.

Who will handle the majority of absentee ballots returned to my office?  The United States Postal Service.

A few days ago, Jim Conklin reached out to me on LinkedIn and shared the video below:

On 8/4/2020, I started driving to the 18 post offices in Linn County that serve Linn County’s voters.  Purpose:  To set a baseline so we can measure if the cost cutting and other measures undertaken by the USPS between now and 11/3/2020 may have a detrimental effect on the return of absentee ballots via the USPS.

My initial baseline is posted here.  I will continue to provide updates as they occur on this post.  And then we can answer questions like:

When should I mail my absentee ballot?  Should I bypass the USPS and use one of the drop boxes provided by the Auditor’s Office?  Should the Auditor’s Office install additional drop boxes in “slow mail” areas?

Your comments and suggestions are welcome.  My decision to baseline the USPS was based upon concerns expressed by Mr. Conklin and others.  Posted by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

 

 

Supervisor Oleson not running for re-election

August 3, 2020

It’s official. Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson will not be running for re-election in the upcoming general election – see link below. Posted by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

2222_001.pdf

Joint statement from Linn & Johnson County Auditors regarding letter from RNC

July 27, 2020

Joint statement from Linn and Johnson County Auditors regarding letter from Republican National Committee (RNC)

Iowans have a hard-earned time-tested tradition of holding fair and free elections, uncontaminated by the efforts of outside pressure groups. That unique tradition is a part of what we sometimes call the “Iowa Way.”  Consistent with that tradition, our offices are making every effort to give active voters in Linn and Johnson Counties all reasonable options to assure that every vote counts and can be cast in the safest ways possible.

An important part of those safe-voting efforts has been to send, in sealed envelopes to their last known addresses, to every active voter—regardless of party affiliation—absentee ballot request forms with correct voter identification information included on the forms, so that they can be returned to our offices, where we serve as the County Commissioners of Elections, so that absentee ballots can be issued to those voters starting on October 5th.

It is extremely concerning that the Republican National Committee is placing pressure on Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to impede our efforts to make voting easier and safer for Iowans during a pandemic.  This is as wrong as it is unprecedented.  Secretary Pate would be wise to ignore this pressure to contaminate Iowa’s storied fair election processes.  Let him perform his job, too, consistent with the Iowa Way, unsullied by outside influences.   Signed (and posted) by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor and Travis Weipert – Johnson County Auditor

 

Auditor Miller’s statement re Secretary Pate’s proposed emergency election directive

July 17, 2020

Statement by Linn County Auditor Joel D. Miller regarding the Iowa Secretary of State’s proposed Emergency Election Directive to be considered by the Iowa Legislative Council on 17 July 2020

I believe that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, those who are privileged to administer the election process must do everything reasonably possible to assist voters’ participation in a safe manner. I am hopeful the Legislative Council will approve the Secretary’s request to provide absentee ballot request forms (ABRF) to Iowa’s voters. I hope the Secretary distributes the ABRFs in a time frame that does not overly burden Iowa’s county auditors when the ABRFs are mailed by the voters to the county auditors.

I disagree with the Secretary’s attempt via his proposed directive to dictate the form in which county auditors can mail ABRFs to each auditor’s voters.

The Code of Iowa contains over 600 pages of laws pertaining to elections. For example, Election Laws of Iowa 2019, a document published by the Legislative Services Agency, is comprised of 636 pages.

In 2020, the Legislature decided to remove the Secretary’s discretion to send out ABRFs to every active registered voter in the State. Those same legislators that decided to remove the Secretary’s discretion were well aware that some of Iowa’s county auditors had mailed out ABRFs prior to the June 2nd primary election. During that same legislative session, those same legislators could have easily removed county auditors’ discretion to mail out ABRFs. They didn’t. They knowingly chose NOT to restrict county auditors’ discretion on mailing out ABRFs.

Now comes the Secretary, seeking permission from the Legislative Council to command county auditors across the State to only mail out officially prescribed blank ABRFs, i.e., if a county auditor chooses to mail out an ABRF.

I do not believe the legislative intent of the Code sections cited by the Secretary was intended to give the Secretary the discretion to pick and choose which election laws he wants to change. And I certainly do not believe the legislative intent was for the Secretary to create laws out of thin air and impose them on other duly elected officials, i.e., county auditors who have a duty to serve the voters in their counties.

What is the harm of voters in Linn County receiving an ABRF from their county auditor and one from the Secretary? None. And that exact scenario occurred prior to the June 2nd primary. What was the result of Linn County voters receiving two ABRFs – one from the Secretary and one from their county auditor? More voters than ever requested an absentee ballot and those same voters and others returned their requested absentee ballots at a rate that broke a primary election turnout record that had been set in 1994.

In summary, I applaud the Secretary’s desire to mail out ABRFs to Iowa’s voters in this unprecedented time of a pandemic. I’m glad to see that he and I are on the same page when it comes to giving our voters the option to vote safely by mail.

I find it absurd that the Secretary is planning to tell me and some of my peers how to send out ABRFs to our voters, when we took the initiative prior to the June 2nd primary to send out ABRFs weeks before the Secretary finally came to the decision to send out ABRFs across the State. The Secretary should stick to doing his job and let us do ours. | Posted by Joel D Miller – Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

Emergency Election Directive_Proposed.pdf

**********************************************

From: Burhans, Heidi [SOS] [Heidi.Burhans@sos.iowa.gov]
Sent: Friday, July 17, 2020 10:03 AM
To: Burhans, Heidi [SOS]
Subject: Proposed Emergency Election Directive

Dear County Auditors, Deputies and Staff:

Thank you for taking the time to participate in our conference calls and post-election survey. It is very important that we all work together to conduct a clean, fair and secure election and keep Iowa voters, PEOs and yourselves safe during this pandemic. Based on your feedback, we are asking the Legislative Council for the ability to do a statewide absentee ballot request form mailing per the attached Emergency Election Directive. They are expected to convene today, and we will let you know as soon as a decision is made.

Here is a link to the agenda which includes call-in information: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/committees/meetings/agenda?meetingID=32076

Heidi L Burhans – Director of Elections – Office of Iowa Secretary of State Paul D Pate

 

HF2643: An unfunded mandate and administrative burden imposed on county taxpayers/voters

July 15, 2020

Yesterday (7/14/2020), LULAC and Majority Forward filed a lawsuit in Johnson County against Iowa Secretary of State Paul D. Pate – the State’s chief election official, who is responsible for the uniform operation of elections across the State of Iowa. It’s attached and it’s a good read. It took me about an hour in between interruptions to get through all 30 pages. It referenced what I’m planning to do for Linn County voters, i.e., mail them prefilled absentee ballot request forms (ABRF) including their PINs.

I’d like to emphasize a couple of points in the lawsuit that majority legislators and the Governor did not seem to consider when they approved HF2643.

1> This change in elections law was included in an appropriations bill. Isn’t it ironic that no one seems to have asked for a fiscal impact statement on this change to elections law? I told both my state representative and state senator that this legislation was going to add costs to future elections because we would need to hire more personnel to contact voters that omitted or replied with incorrect information on their ABRFs.

2> No two voters will necessarily be treated the same whether from the same county or from different counties. For example, an in-person voter voting at an auditor’s office or at the polls on election day will always be offered a provisional ballot if they are lacking the proper identification or don’t qualify to vote a regular ballot for some reason. The same is not true for an absentee voter voting by mail. If they submit a defective ABRF to our office, they will have to cure the defect before an absentee ballot will be mailed to them. We never mail out provisional absentee ballots to absentee ballot requestors.

If you’re voting address is in Linn or Johnson counties, we are planning to mail active voters prefilled ABRFs including PINs. As of this writing, if you live in Black Hawk or Dubuque counties, you may receive an ABRF, but they won’t be prefilled – see KCRG TV 7/15/2020. And finally, if you live in Benton, Jones, Buchanan, Tama, or Iowa counties, those county auditors are NOT mailing out ABRFs – see KCRG TV 7/7/2020.

LULAC and Majority Forward are correct in asserting that voters across the State will be treated differently depending on their voting addresses. Don’t blame me or my peers who are mailing out ABRFs to our constituents, thereby reducing the impact of the Legislature’s unfunded mandate, reducing the administrative burden on our voters, and/or creating inequities between counties. Many of my peers foresaw exactly what is occurring now, and asked for a seat at the table when HF2643 and other senseless changes were being made to Iowa’s election laws. We were ignored.

I’m going to do my best to keep my constituents safe and healthy if/when or however they choose to engage in the upcoming election. I would be negligent to do otherwise. Posted by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

LULAC Pleading01 Petition at Law and Equity 071420.pdf

LULAC Pleading02 Motion for Special Assignment 071420.pdf

LULAC Pleading03 Notice of Conflict 071420.pdf

Linn County Auditor puts Iowa Secretary of State on notice

July 11, 2020

On July 2nd, I put the public on notice that I intended to mail out absentee ballot request forms (ABRF) to include a voter’s personal identification number (PIN), to every active voter in Linn County – see link in my email.

On July 6th, the Iowa Secretary of State put me on notice that I could not send my voters a prefilled ABRF with their PIN.

Today, July 11th, I’m giving the SoS notice of my intent to start mailing ABRFs including PINs on July 20th.

Stay tuned,

Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

***********************************************************************

Molly M. Widen – Legal Counsel

Office of Iowa Secretary of State Paul D. Pate

Via email

11 July 2020

Dear Ms. Widen:

RE:  Notice of intent to mail prefilled absentee ballot request forms to Linn County’s active voters

On July 6th, I received the email below from Director of Elections Heidi Burhans, which indicates, “The ID Number field can NOT be pre-populated ….” onto prefilled absentee ballot request forms (ABRF) mailed to voters.

I, as the County Auditor of Linn County, duly authorized as the County Commissioner of Elections, and as a custodian of voter records, including Voter Identification Numbers and Four-digit PINs (personal identification numbers), DO NOT AGREE with the Director’s statement.

I believe that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, those who are privileged to administer the election process must do everything reasonably possible to assist voters’ participation in a safe manner.  As the Secretary of State demonstrated in the state’s recent primary election, safe voting through the use of mailed ballots is a choice that many Iowans prefer.

To that end, I believe that absentee ballot request forms should be made readily available to the voters in my county, and I am taking action to assure that access.

The purpose of this email is to give the Office of Iowa Secretary of State Paul D. Pate notice of my intent to mail, in a sealed envelope addressed to each ACTIVE registered voter in Linn County, at the address best known to our office after diligent searches, sent via First Class USPS postage, a prefilled ABRF including the voter’s Four-digit Voter PIN (personal identification number).

Samples of actual ready-to-mail prefilled ABRFs are attached to this email for your information and records.  The names, dates of birth, and PINs have been redacted from these ready-to-mail ABRFs.  In each instance, an ACTIVE registered voter’s PIN will be prefilled onto the form along with the voter’s personal information.

The Office of Linn County Auditor has already expended public funds in anticipation of mailing these prefilled ABRFs.  I am giving you notice that these ABRFs will be delivered to the USPS (United States Postal System) starting on Monday, 20 July 2020.

My office gave notice to the public of its intent to send out prefilled ABRFs via a news story published in The Gazette, the County’s official newspaper, on 2 July 2020 – see The Gazette

Linn County’s voters are expecting my office to mail them prefilled ABRFs including their Four-digit PIN so that they might proceed promptly in requesting absentee ballots.

The basis for any objection to me assisting active registered voters in the manner described is not clear.  However, to the extent that there is a genuine difference of opinion grounded in public records law, I know that Iowa law provides prompt access to the Iowa District Court to address such objections.

To that end, please know of my intent (unless otherwise directed by a Court exercising jurisdiction over this matter) to start delivering prefilled ABRFs (mailed in the manner described herein) to the USPS on 20 July 2020.

Regards,

Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

2 redacted ready-to-mail Linn County ABRFs 7-11-2020.pdf

**************************************************************

From: Burhans, Heidi [SOS] <Heidi.Burhans@sos.iowa.gov>
Sent: Monday, July 6, 2020 2:41 PM
To: Burhans, Heidi [SOS] <Heidi.Burhans@sos.iowa.gov>
Cc: Widen, Molly [SOS] <Molly.Hammer@sos.iowa.gov>; Hicok, Wes [SOS] <Wes.Hicok@sos.iowa.gov>; Livingood, Heather [SOS] <Heather.Livingood@sos.iowa.gov>; Kramer, Lance [SOS] <Lance.Kramer@sos.iowa.gov>; Cole, Dale [SOS] <Dale.Cole@sos.iowa.gov>
Subject: Absentee Ballot Request Mailer

Dear County Auditors, Deputies and Staff:

We understand that many counties are going to issue a countywide mailing of absentee ballot request forms to their voters, and some counties plan to pre-populate the fields with voters’ details.

The ID Number field can NOT be pre-populated because it is considered a confidential record per Iowa Code §22.7.72–73. The voter verification number is defined in §53.2(4)(c).

Please contact either Molly or me with any questions regarding this topic.

Heidi L. Burhans – Director of Elections – Office of Secretary of State Paul D. Pate


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