Strict adherence to Iowa law may delay reporting of absentee results

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
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.


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

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