Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

FOIA: The Patriots Foundation

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 <craig@theiowarepublican.com>
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2020 12:05 PM
To: Miller, Joel <joel.miller@linncounty-ia.gov>
Subject: FOIA Request

Auditor Miller,

Please see the attached FOIA request.

Thanks

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 https://linncountyelections.org/lookup/.

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 https://mymvd.iowadot.gov/Account/Login 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 https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterinformation/voterIDfaq.html#2.

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

Linn Auditor encourages eligible felons to register to vote

September 22, 2020

Last week, the Linn County Auditor’s Office mailed a letter to 4,561 felons thought to be eligible to register to vote in Linn County based upon the Governor’s recent executive order. Anecdotal replies to our Office from the recipients of this letter are encouraging.

In Iowa, felons’ rights to vote can be confusing. Please reach out to Election Services at 319-892-5300 option 1 or email Election Services if you have any questions.  Posted by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

Plan on encountering unmasked voters in Linn County on Election Day

September 21, 2020

About a week ago, I raised a ruckus when I posted on social media that masks will not be required for citizens voting on Election Day.  I didn’t make this up as it came from an Iowa Secretary of State training session on 8/20/2020.  KCRG-TV aired a story in which I stated the same, and the next day, we lost a half dozen precinct election officials.

We can and we will require masks to be worn when early/absentee voting is underway at our satellite polling places because in-person early/absentee voting is NOT a constitutionally protected right.

So when is the best time to go to the polls on Election Day to avoid unmasked voters?  Based upon my projections, about one voter per minute is going to arrive at the polls.  Of course, that’s an average.

We know from past elections that about 50% of citizens vote at the polls between 7am-3pm, and the other 50% vote from 3pm-9pm.  We also know that mid-morning, i.e, after 8am, may be the best time to avoid other voters.

Nothing is normal about this election and I still stand by advising you to vote-by-mail.  If you cannot or will not do that, then vote in-person (and curbside/drive through) at one of our satellites … especially if your goal is to avoid unmasked voters.

Of course, if you think I’ve made an error in my projections or you want an explanation on the numbers, please reach out to me.

Yes, we will be offering face masks to all persons entering a polling place on Election Day, but we cannot require persons to wear them.

Do plan on encountering unmasked voters at the polls on Election Day … because you will.  Joel D Miller — Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

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


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