About tomorrow’s primary election – do ask and don’t protest

Earlier this year during a special election in Lisbon, your Elections Office tested Apple iPad electronic pollbooks (ePollbooks) at the polling place.  ePollbooks are used to check-in voters and confirm voter eligibility, and replace paper based registers that voters sign.    It was a small election and after some initial startup issues, everything operated as planned.  The test was successful.

Another special election occurred in April and we did additional testing on the iPad ePollbooks.  We did not have any startup issues and everything operated as planned.  The test was successful.

Tuesday, June 5th, we will be using the iPad ePollbooks in conjunction with older laptop ePollbooks in each of the precincts in the County.  Linn County has 86 precincts operating in 79 separate polling places, and 250 precinct election officials (PEO) will be ready to serve you.

Every one of those PEOs has received from 2 – 4.5 hours of training in preparation for the election.  They have trained on the ePollbooks and they will have paper based election registers to backup the technology should any issues arise.

In addition, several other election day workers will be visiting the polling places to assist with any technology related issues. 

Please keep in mind that the backup to any technology failure is paper.  For example, if the optical scanner stops working, you can drop your voted paper ballot into an emergency storage bin on the ballot box.  When the failure is remedied, two PEOs from different political parties empty the emergency storage bin and run the unidentifiable marked ballots through the scanner.  If you see PEOs handling ballots near the ballot box, that’s what they are doing.  Feel free to confirm what the PEOs are doing.  Ask them.  Don’t leave the polling place wondering what they were doing.

In the same manner, if an ePollbook, laptop, or printer fails, the PEOs will revert to the paper forms they have on-hand for this situation.  Once the failure is remedied, the PEOs will resume using the appropriate electronic devices.

Iowa has been using paper ballots since 2008 and we store the voted ballots for 22 months after an election.  We have never needed to recreate an entire election; however, from time to time, candidates request recounts on their specific races.  These recounts have always proven that our processes, methods, and technology functions correctly. 

Every election administrator’s goal is a perfect election – one with no errors and no failures.  In a perfect world that might be attainable.  But in today’s election world, it is not likely.  Elections have lots of “moving parts”:  PEOs, technology, voters, polling places, … and the weather. 

We have contingency plans in place, and backups to backups to ensure every eligible voter who chooses to vote gets to vote, and every vote gets counted, and that you can trust the results.

If you see something odd occur while you are at the polling place, please ask the Chairperson of the PEOs right then and there.  Our elections are transparent and there is an explanation for everything the Elections Office and the PEOs do on election day.  If you are unsatisfied with the answer, then call me at 319-892-5333.  Better yet, volunteer to be a precinct election official in the November general election.  The application is here.  – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

P.S.  Please do NOT use this election or any election to protest the Voter ID law.  Your PEOs have a duty to administer the election according to the Iowa’s laws.  And your protest may consume just enough time that someone in line behind you is disenfranchised because they only have 5 minutes to vote before going to their next job or picking up the kids from school, and you just delayed the process by 5 minutes and they had to leave the polling place without voting. 

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