Archive for October, 2020

Does Iowa SoS plan to suspend counting of absentee ballots at 10pm on Election Night?

October 30, 2020

At 7am on Monday, November 2nd, Linn County’s Absentee Ballot and Special Voters Precinct Board (ASVP) will start counting an estimated 80,000 absentee ballots received by the Linn County Auditor’s Office prior to election day.

In the June 2020 primary election, the ASVP counted 33,892 absentee ballots and finished the counting about 4pm on election day.

Earlier this year, I submitted a request to change the Iowa Secretary of State’s (SoS) administrative rules to allow county auditors more time to begin counting absentee ballots. A hearing was conducted by the SoS’s legal counsel, but no further action was taken on my requested rule change. Instead, the SoS asked the Legislative Council to approve a one-time directive to allow the ASVP to open absentee ballots on Saturday.

With the election day less than four days away, I thought it prudent to ask the question: What happens if my office does not complete the counting of absentee ballots by 10pm on election night? I emailed my question to the SoS – see below. The SoS’s deflection to my question is further below.

Asked if he has any concerns about absentee results not being reported on election night, Pate said, “No, I really don’t.” Why is Secretary Pate so confident? One answer might be: He’s going to suspend the counting of absentee ballots at 10:01pm.

Hopefully, all of Iowa’s 99 counties will be finished counting their absentee ballots by 10:01pm.  But what if one or more are not? What will happen? I’m not going to take that chance with my voters’ absentee ballots, and I think any auditor who ignores the “writing on the wall” below is putting their voters’ absentee ballots in jeopardy.

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


From: Miller, Joel <>
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2020 2:34 PM
To: Burhans, Heidi [SOS] <>
Subject: Request for confirmation on counting absentee ballots after 10pm on election day and beyond?

Director Burhans:

Code of Iowa 53.23 makes references to 10pm on election day and references to counting absentee ballots on election day – see

As of today, we have more than 70,000 absentee ballots to count and report on by 10pm on election day. Over six months ago, I tried to buy or rent an additional DS850; and I partnered with Johnson County in an attempt to buy/rent an additional DS450/650/850 that we could share between us.

Linn County only possesses two DS850s to count the 70K+ absentee ballots. If a DS850 breakdowns and it cannot be returned to service in a timely manner, we will use our DS200s to continue processing ballots. However, any breakdown in the process of counting absentee ballots could result in Linn County missing the 10pm times mentioned in paragraphs 1, 3a, and 3c and/or not completing the counting of absentee ballots on election day mentioned in paragraphs 1, 3a, 3c, and 6.

I presume each and every county auditor in the State shall continue counting the absentee ballots they started to count on November 2nd and/or November 3rd through 10pm and beyond, if that is what is necessary to complete the counting of the absentee ballots?

Unfortunately, it is unwise to presume anything in this election and I am now requesting confirmation from you, as the Director of Elections for the Office of the Iowa Secretary of State, that county auditors shall continue to count the absentee ballots that we started to count, until all absentee ballots to be counted on election day are counted, even if we do not complete the counting until November 4th or beyond.

Please provide your confirmation of my presumption in writing.


Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor


From: Burhans, Heidi [SOS] []
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2020 5:30 PM
To: Miller, Joel
Subject: RE: Request for confirmation on counting absentee ballots after 10pm on election day and beyond?

Auditor Miller:

It is important to note that, according to ES&S product specifications, you have the capacity to process 600 ballots per minute utilizing both of your DS850s. Based on the number of absentee ballots returned in your county, it appears tabulation will take a little over two hours. You can begin counting absentee ballots at 12:00 AM on Monday, November 2, 2020, which means there are 46 hours available for counting prior to 10:00 PM on Election Day. Opening and separating the affidavit envelopes from the secrecy sleeves tomorrow allows Monday and Tuesday to be devoted to counting ballots.

In the event that one or both of your DS850s were to experience a breakdown, you should follow the process you have developed in your Incident Response Plan.

If you need suggestions regarding how to manage the processing of your absentee ballots, we suggest reaching out to Jamie Fitzgerald or Dennis Parrott. They both are confident in their ability to process a high number of absentee ballots prior to 10:00 PM on Election Day and may have some suggestions on how to improve your ASVP Board’s internal processes. 

Additionally, you may seek counsel from your County Attorney. If they have any questions, they can consult with the Attorney General’s Office through the Prosecuting Attorney Training Council (PATC).


Heidi L. Burhans – Director of Elections

FOIA: Colin C. Smith – Smith Law Office LLC – West Des Moines, IA

October 30, 2020

After I received a FOIA from The Patriots Foundation AND a demand letter from the SoS legal counsel yesterday, I started wondering if they were related to a earlier FOIA from Colin Smith. What do you think?

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

Open Records Request to Linn County Auditor – 9.17.20 – FINAL.pdf

Demand Letter: Iowa Secretary of State

October 29, 2020

The last time I complied with a demand letter from the Iowa Secretary of State, the information I provided appeared in subsequent legal briefs filed in the Trump Campaign versus Joel Miller hearing (Case #06571EQCV095986). I’m guessing someone is getting ready to file another lawsuit. Why? Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

From: Widen, Molly [SOS] <>
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2020 2:05 PM
To: Miller, Joel <>
Cc: Ston…
Subject: Iowa Code §47.1(6) Demand for Documents

Good Afternoon Auditor Miller,

You are receiving this email because there was litigation in your county regarding the sending of absentee ballot requests pre-filled with voters’ information by your office. Pursuant to Iowa Code §47.1(6), please provide the following records:

  1. The voter ID, name and address of every voter that was sent a notice by your office as required by the Temporary Restraining Order in place in your county
  2. The voter ID, name and address of every voter who returned an absentee ballot request form pre-filled with their information by your office

We ask that you provide these records in an expeditious manner, but no later than November 6, 2020. It is our office’s understanding that you have created and are maintaining an Excel spreadsheet with the requested information. Providing a copy of the spreadsheet would fulfill the requirement.

Once you have compiled the requested records, please email be so I can provide you with details on how to upload the records to an sFTP.


Molly M. Widen
Legal Counsel
Office of Iowa Secretary of State Paul D. Pate
Office: (515) 281-5864

Mobile: (515) 210-4634

Email: molly.widen

FOIA: Craig Robinson – The Patriots Foundation – Urbandale, IA

October 29, 2020

The last time I received a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (also known as an open records request in Iowa) or a demand letter from the Iowa Secretary of State, I was sued by the Trump Campaign and others. Today, I received a FOIA from The Patriots Foundation AND a demand letter from the SoS legal counsel.

The general election is less than five days away. What’s this all about? Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

From: Craig Robinson <>
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2020 12:05 PM
To: Miller, Joel <>
Subject: FOIA Request

Auditor Miller,

Please see the attached FOIA request.


Craig Robinson

Linn County FOIA Request.pdf

NEWS RELEASE: Presidential General Election Reminders

October 28, 2020

Presidential General Election Reminders

Early Voting Locations; Returning & Counting Absentee Ballots; Updated Election Day Polling Locations; Safety Precautions

LINN COUNTY, IA – October 28, 2020 – The Presidential General Election is Tuesday, November 3. Linn County Auditor’s Office reminds voters of the following information for this upcoming election.

Early Voting: Lindale Mall and 823 3rd St SW

Linn County voters have the option for in-person, early voting at two locations:

· Lindale Mall through Saturday, October 31 from 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. each day.

· 823 3rd St SW (across the street from the Linn County Public Service Center) Mondays-Saturdays, including Monday, November 2. Hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Voters must present an ID when voting in-person. Curbside voting is available at both locations.

Returning Absentee Ballots

Over 5,000 voters have not returned their mailed, absentee ballots. Voters can return their absentee ballots four different ways:

1. Mail their ballot. Ballots must be postmarked by Monday, November 2.

2. Drop their ballot in the white drop box at the Linn County Public Service Center, located at 935 2nd St SW in Cedar Rapids. Ballots must be in the drop box by 9 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3.

3. Bring their ballot and envelope to an early voting location (locations listed above).

4. Take their ballot and envelope to an Election Day polling location. Absentee ballots will be ‘spoiled,’ and a replacement ballot will be issued.

Voters can track their absentee ballots on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.

Iowa law does not have any provisions nor mechanisms for a voter who has submitted a countable absentee ballot to replace that ballot with a new one for any reason, including that they changed their mind about which candidate they prefer in a race. While there are a small number of states that have such provisions, there would need to be legislation to change that in Iowa.

Counting Absentee Ballots

The Linn County Absentee and Special Voters Precinct Board (ASVP Board) will open absentee ballot envelopes on Saturday, October 31 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Linn County Public Service Center, as allowed by the Iowa Legislative Council. No ballots will be counted at that time.

Starting Monday, November 2, the ASVP Board will reconvene to continue opening absentee envelopes and begin counting ballots. The Board will continue counting absentee ballots through the evening and all day Tuesday, November 3.

The ASVP Board is a bi-partisan citizen group of Democrats and Republicans. The ASVP Board work must be done with bi-partisan pairs. For example, Democrat and Republican pairs open ballots together. Democrat and Republican pairs or groups also run the ballots through the ballot scanning machines. All ballots are kept locked and sealed throughout the ballot counting process.

The Republican Party and the Democratic Party are each allowed to send five poll watchers to view this process.

The number of returned absentee ballots is already very high, so the public is advised that full election results may be delayed until all absentee ballots received by the deadline are counted.

Updated Election Day Polling Places

On Election Day, November 3, voters will need to vote at their general election poll location. Due to COVID-19 and the derecho, many polling places have changed. The Auditor’s Office mailed a notice of updated polling places to all registered households in mid-October. To verify polling places, voters may enter their address into

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Curbside voting is available at each polling location on Election Day. A majority of precinct election officials at each polling place are balanced between registered Democrats and Republicans.

Election Day Safety Precautions

The Linn County Auditor’s Office will use a number of health and security precautions on Election Day to safeguard voters and election workers, including:

· All election workers will be required to wear masks.

· All voters will be offered a free mask.

· A designated cleaning person will sanitize voting surfaces throughout the day.

· Disposable pens will be used.

· Plastic dividers will separate voting areas.

· 6-foot markers will be on the floor for social distancing.

· Hand sanitizer will be available for all voters.

To ensure safety, Linn County Sheriff’s deputies will be providing a presence at all polling locations throughout the day.

Questions regarding voter registration or absentee voting can be answered by visiting elections or calling 319-892-5300, option 1.

A calendar with the Presidential General Election deadlines is also available on Linn County’s website. Posted by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

NEWS RELEASE: Linn County Auditor Joel D. Miller Concerned by Lack of Young People Voting

October 9, 2020

LINN COUNTY, IA – October 9, 2020 – Linn County Auditor Joel D. Miller’s office has noticed a disturbing trend amongst early voters – young voters are not responding.

For example, of the first 5,580 ballots returned by mail or early in-person voting, only 578 of those ballots came from voters between 18-34 years of age.

Examples such as this have Auditor Miller concerned young people may not be voting or registering to vote. Typically, presidential election years show an increase in voter registrations. However, due to COVID-19, many door to door efforts to register people have not occurred.

The deadline for early voter registration is October 24. Voters may register at the Iowa DOT website or with a paper form from the Auditor’s Office. After registering, voters will just need to provide a valid state ID or Voter ID card when voting at the polls.

If voters miss the October 24 deadline, they can still register leading up to and on election day by providing a valid form of ID and proof of residency. Young voters may have trouble at the polling places on election day when they cannot produce the correct documentation to vote. Acceptable forms of documentation can be found on the Secretary of State’s website

The Auditor’s Office does not record nor track racial demographics.

Visit elections or calling 319-892-5300, option 1. Posted by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

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