Linn County Auditor puts Iowa Secretary of State on notice


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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One Response to “Linn County Auditor puts Iowa Secretary of State on notice”

  1. Bleeding Heartland Says:

    […] made his challenge known by forwarding his letter to journalists and publishing it on his own blog under the headline, “Linn County Auditor puts Iowa Secretary of State on notice.” […]

    Like

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