Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

Miller v Voter Registration Commission hearing on March 5th

March 5, 2021

On February 3rd, I blogged about the Court’s inaction to hold a hearing on my appeal of a decision by the Voter Registration Commission (VRC) – see Court’s inaction jeopardizing review of Iowa’s election system

On February 11th, the VRC filed a motion to dismiss my appeal for a hearing.

Today, March 5th, at 11:30am, the Court will hold a hearing on the motion to dismiss – see GoToMeeting link at https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/311607541

You are invited to attend this GoToMeeting hearing. Posted by Joel D Miller – Linn County Auditor

13 – IVRC Motion to Dismiss as Moot – 2.11.21.PDF

15 – Miller Resistance to MTDismiss – 2.16.21.PDF

16 – Court Order re Dismiss Hearing – 2.17.21.PDF

Court’s inaction jeopardizing review of Iowa’s election system

February 3, 2021

On 2/1/2021, I asked James Larew, a Johnson County based attorney representing my Office for free, to find out what’s going on with my appeal of the Voter Registration Commission’s decision – see LINN COUNTY AUDITOR VS IOWA VOTER REG COMM CASE: 05771 CVCV059748 (POLK).

I filed a petition for judicial review on 2/13/2020. Judge David Matthew Porter’s last action on the case was on 5/21/2020. My appeal is still relevant.

Our statewide voter registration system (IVoters) is now 17 years old and likely vulnerable to hackers and supposedly won’t be updated until 2023 – the year after the next general election. The current Office of Secretary of State appears content to kick the can down the road for another two years.

In 2017, we discovered foreign adversaries targeted IVoters in 2016, so we spent from 2017 to 2020 hardening our elections infrastructure. Recently, we discovered that foreign adversaries hacked our supply chain, i.e., SolarWinds, which is used by governments in Iowa. Some of those same governments using SolarWinds also support elections infrastructure, which means our current elections infrastructure could be compromised now or sometime in the future, at the convenience of the hackers.

Yet, here we are with IVoters, a 17+ year old system and a Judge who has not filed one action in 8 months in this case during a time when no in-person jury trials are occurring because of the pandemic.

I’m not asking for a jury. I’m just asking for a hearing via Zoom, like the ones that were held when Trump sued county auditors last Fall. Who is cracking the whip on district court judges to ensure cases of being processed? Who should be? Posted by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Strict adherence to Iowa law may delay reporting of absentee results

February 2, 2021

On 2/1/2021, I received a notice of technical infraction from the Iowa Secretary of State (SoS). It arrived within about 24 hours of Laura Belin posting a story. Coincidence?

How does this technical infraction affect you? A strict adherence to Iowa Code 53.23 may result in some Iowa counties NOT reporting absentee ballot results until 10pm on general election nights. That would have a huge impact on candidates, voters, and the news media.

My official response to the technical infraction is below. As always, your comments are welcome. Posted by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Commissioner of Elections

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

From: Miller, Joel
Sent: Tuesday, February 02, 2021 5:05 PM
To: michael.ross@sos.iowa.gov
Cc:
Subject: Acceptance of offer to help RE: Notice of Technical Infraction

Dear Deputy Secretary of State Ross;

On 2/1/2021, I received a Notice of Technical Infraction from you.  You allege a violation of Iowa law occurred on 11/4/2020, i.e., 89 days ago, but to my knowledge, you did not conduct any investigation into the facts.  I acknowledge a Notice of Technical Infraction does not require an investigation nor does it require facts before being issued nor does it require a response from the recipient.

I DO ACCEPT YOUR OFFER to “work with” me and my “staff on training methods and best practices to prevent future violations of Iowa law.”

I have scoured the training materials and best practices provided by the Office of Secretary of State, and I have yet to find any best practices, rules, or laws on how to reconcile the public’s interest in having absentee ballot results reported at 9:01pm or shortly thereafter on a general election night, versus the reality that some voters deliver their absentee ballots to auditors’ offices at 8:59pm on general election nights.

You write, “… we would recommend that you put a procedure in place to ensure the Linn County Auditor’s Office employee responsible for closing your no contact ballot delivery system at the time polls close also immediately delivers any ballots received at that time to your ASVP Board for review and counting.”

On March 2nd, my office will be administering two special elections.  I HEREBY REQUEST that you and any number of your staff come to Linn County and observe our election night procedures; specifically, those related to our no contact drop box, to confirm the facts as to how absentee ballots deposited into the drop box are processed when the polls close.

I think a strict adherence to Iowa Code 53.23 may result in some Iowa counties NOT reporting absentee ballot results until 10pm on general election nights.  I believe that our mutual constituencies including the news media, would be outraged to learn that general election results may not be available until 10pm or until such time as all absentee ballots delivered to Auditors Offices are counted.

In the meantime, please provide me with any training materials authored by your office.

Again, I look forward to receiving your training materials, your input on our procedures to be developed, and your presence at our office on Election Night on March 2nd, 2021.  I believe you will gain an understanding of how election administration works at the local level, and I will gain an understanding of how you think it should work.

Regards,

Joel D. Miller | Linn County Auditor | 319-892-5333

Exhibit #1: Legislature making elections more complicated

February 2, 2021

During today’s Linn County Board of Supervisors meeting, Linn County’s Deputy Commissioner of Elections and I updated the Board on proposed legislation, i.e., Senate File 115, which would:

1> Reduce the number of days to request an absentee ballot from the current 10 or 11 days before an election to 15 days.

2> Require ballots to be postmarked no less than 10 days before the election rather than the current 1 day before an election.

If SF115 is signed by the Governor in its current form and goes into effect, AND a massive effort is not commenced to inform every voter, then thousands of future absentee ballots lacking a postmark 10 or more days ahead of an election may be disqualified.

MY PROPOSAL: I don’t like absentee ballots coming in after the election ends at 8pm (local elections) or 9pm (primary & general elections). Instead of creating a bunch of random, pulled out of thin air deadlines, let’s just end the election at 8pm/9pm on election night.

And once you make the decision to put a hard deadline on when the election ends, then publicize the heck out of it to ensure every voter is aware of the deadline. And allow counties to install absentee ballot drop boxes throughout the county that are staffed on election night to ensure no absentee ballots are dropped after the deadline, and all ballots are returned to be counted in the results.

Iowa’s 2020 general election wasn’t broke and doesn’t need to be fixed. Don’t make voting complicated by adding a bunch of deadlines no one will remember. #MakeVotingSimple Posted by Joel D Miller – Linn County Commissioner of Elections

Update 10:01AM | 2/3/2021 | For the 2020 general election, @lc_elections received 52,497 mailed in absentee ballots. If the proposed SF115 law had been in effect and no one knew about it, 8976 ballots would have been disqualified due to late arriving mailed in ballots.

NEWS RELEASE: Marion and Alburnett school districts holding special elections on March 2nd

February 2, 2021

SPECIAL ELECTION

Alburnett Community School District and Marion Independent School District

Absentee voting begins Monday, February 8 at Lindale Mall Food Court

LINN COUNTY, IA – February 2, 2021 – Early, absentee voting begins Monday, February 8 in Linn County for the Alburnett Community School District and the Marion Independent School District Special Elections.

Voting Early: Curbside and In-Person

The Linn County Auditor’s Office will open at the Lindale Mall Food Court located at 4444 1st Ave NE in Cedar Rapids from February 8 through March 1, 2021. All auditor services, including voting, will be available at this temporary location Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from February 8 through March 1. Voters residing in the Alburnett Community School District or Marion Independent School District may vote early either in-person at the Lindale Mall Food Court or from their vehicle (curbside) at the temporary Lindale Mall location.

On Friday, February 19, extended hours will be available for one day from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Voting by Mail

Voters may request to have an absentee ballot mailed to them. Voters may print a request form from www.LinnCountyElections.org or they may call the Auditor’s Office at 319-892-5300 to request a form. Requests for mailed ballots must be received by Friday, February 19, 2021.

Absentee voters may return their ballot by mail. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked on or before Monday, March 1 in order to be counted.

Absentee voters may also hand-deliver their ballot to the white dropbox located in front of the Linn County Public Service Center at 935 2nd St SW. The dropbox is available 24 hours a day and is under video surveillance. Ballots returned to the dropbox must be received by Tuesday, March 2 at 8 p.m. Ballots may also be returned to Auditor’s Office staff at Lindale Mall during the voting hours listed above.

Election Day Vote Centers

Election Day is Tuesday, March 2. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Alburnett Community School District voters may vote at either Alburnett United Methodist Church, 221 S. Main St., Alburnett or King of Kings Lutheran Church, 3275 N Center Point Rd, Cedar Rapids.

Marion Independent School District voters may vote at either Marion City Hall, 1225 6th Ave, Marion or Ascension Lutheran Church, 2210 Grand Ave, Marion.

Election Portal

Go to www.LinnCountyElections.org to access all election-related information for Linn County. The following can be viewed or downloaded:

· Absentee ballot request forms

· Election Day information

· Sample ballots

· Voter registration forms

Dates & Deadlines

Due Date Event / Deadline
2/08/2021 Absentee voting begins
2/19/2021 Last day to pre-register to vote for this election
2/19/2021 Last day to request an absentee ballot to be mailed
3/1/2021 Last day to vote in-person absentee (Lindale Mall Food Court)
3/2/2021 Election Day
3/8/2021 Canvass of votes

For questions regarding this election, call the Linn County Election Services Office at (319) 892-5300, ext. 1 or email elections

Posted by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Commissioner of Elections #MakingVotingSimple and Convenient

Linn County completes successful post-election audit

November 12, 2020

Code of Iowa chapter 49.128 requires county auditors to conduct a post-election audit of our general election results. Today, an audit board comprised of Democratic and Republican members, completed an audit of precinct CR-43 – the random precinct selected by the Iowa Secretary of State. The public and news media were invited, but none attended the audit.

The audit board did not find any errors or omissions related to the audited precinct; hence, they certified the audit as complete and correct.

Unless a recount of Linn County is requested, the post-election audit is one of the last major steps we will take to close this election. Linn County Election Services still has plenty of minor administrative tasks to do for this election; then, we start preparing for our first special election in March of 2021, as well as, the city/school elections in November 2021.

There’s much more to elections than 29 days of absentee/early voting and election day. In Linn County, it’s a year-round process. Posted by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections
20201112103011495.pdf

Press release: Iowa’s county auditors have 46 hours to count 924,533 absentee ballots

November 2, 2020

This morning, Roxanna Moritz, President of the Iowa State Association of County Auditors, issued a press release reminding county auditors that beginning at 12:01am today, we have 46 hours to count the absentee ballots we had as of this morning, i.e., 924,533 absentee ballots

Translation: Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is going to suspend the counting of absentee ballots at 10pm on Election Night. This means that any of those 924,533 absentee ballots NOT counted by 10pm will NOT be counted.

In Linn County, we started the process of counting the absentee ballots included in the 924,533 total at 7am. We will not stop until 100% are counted. Posted by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

PR Release.docx

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 <joel.miller@linncounty-ia.gov>
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2020 2:34 PM
To: Burhans, Heidi [SOS] <Heidi.Burhans@sos.iowa.gov>
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 https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/53.23.pdf

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.

Regards,

Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

———————————————————————

From: Burhans, Heidi [SOS] [Heidi.Burhans@sos.iowa.gov]
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).

Regards,

Heidi L. Burhans – Director of Elections

FOIA: Colin Smith

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] <Molly.Hammer@sos.iowa.gov>
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2020 2:05 PM
To: Miller, Joel <joel.miller@linncounty-ia.gov>
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.

Sincerely,

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
SERVICE · PARTICIPATION · INTEGRITY
sos.iowa.gov

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