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
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