Update #8: Linn County voter data

August 16, 2017


August 16, 2017


Becky Stonawski

Deputy Commissioner of Elections

(319) 892-5300, ext. 1


Update on Voter Security Issue

(CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – July 16, 2017) A security lapse occurred in the Linn County Elections office on August 4, 2017. The Linn County Auditor’s Office has been working diligently over the past twelve days with both law enforcement and online companies to minimize any potential issues associated with the August 4 security lapse. We have appeared before the Board of Supervisors four times over the last twelve days, and we have been in constant communication with the Linn County Attorney’s office.

Legal processes are ongoing. Unlike hacking or theft of computer information, here we can identify where the data went. We are working to ensure that the data has not – nor will not – be further disseminated. As we work to resolve this issue, we are hopeful that further security measures, including ID protection, will not be necessary. If however, additional measures become necessary, we will comply with Iowa law. At this point, the public needs to take no action.

The Linn County Elections office apologizes sincerely for the stress and loss of trust that this situation has caused. We appreciate the public’s patience, and we believe that the situation will be resolved. We encourage Linn County voters to continue to exercise their right to vote.

For additional information, please contact Linn County Election Services. Phone: 319-892-5300, ext 1. Email: elections.


Update #7: Linn County voter data

August 12, 2017

Still no news I can share on the legal remedies being pursued. Sorry.

One of the issues covered by the local media, i.e., KGAN on its Thursday news programs and KCRG on its Friday news programs is my request for the Iowa Secretary of State to change the export tools in I-Voters so they cannot export confidential data when fulfilling a voter data request from the public. It seems the SoS’s position has evolved from wanting me to recant my request (via a voice mail by the author of the attached letter) to being receptive to my request – see paragraph #1 in the attached letter. Of course, the SoS’s offer to change is conditioned on the other 98 county auditors concurring with my request.

I hope my request does not turn into a "who supports the SoS versus who supports Auditor Miller" when the question should be: What’s the right thing to do?

I don’t agree with some of the other statements in the SoS’s letter, but I’m not going to argue about those statements now because what I really want is for the export tools in I-Voters to be changed so neither my successor nor any other county auditor has to deal with an accidental release of confidential voter data that is illegal to export in the first place.

BTW, a few of my detractors have tried to score political points by criticizing my use of this blog to post updates. Of course, they have never likely tried to personally post something on the County’s official website; whereas, I have posted on that website. Let me just say, "Life is already too short for me to have to use the County’s web site as my mouthpiece in a crisis".

As for my individual posts on my blog, I am very particular about indicating which role I am in when I post on this blog, e.g., if I am posting as a candidate or a resident, I indicate it. On this post, I am and I have been writing as the county auditor; hence, the signature that follows. Thanks for reading! -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

CO to Linn Co re SSN breach.pdf

Update #6: Linn County voter data

August 10, 2017

Unfortunately, I have very little to update you on today other than the legal wheels are in motion and I/we are awaiting updates. I stand by my belief that we have minimized the risk of the accidently released voter data being used for unlawful purposes.

I believe the local news media has been doing a fine job of keeping you informed on this incident, i.e., if you utilize any of the media outlets on a daily basis. My latest interview (8/10/2017) was part of a story carried by CBS2/FOX28 and you can see it here. Tomorrow (8/11/2017), KCRG’s I-9 reporter Josh Scheinblum is scheduled to do a follow-up report on this incident.

While the legal wheels are in motion, I will be working to eliminate the possibility of anyone in my office from ever fulfilling a request for voter data that includes confidential data, e.g., the last four of your SSN. Thus far, the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office has not been receptive to removing the options to include confidential data in the voter data requests. In fact, the SoS would like me to rescind my letter to them requesting they modify I-Voters.

The SoS is in a pickle. Secretary Paul Pate issued an Open letter to Iowa Voters on August 1st and then my office accidently releases confidential voter data on August 4th. Talk about bad timing. But the ability of my employees and Auditors’ employees across the State of Iowa to commit this error has been around for years and the opportunity to commit the error today still exists.

I believe if a statistician was asked about whether or not an accidental data release occurred in the past, he/she would indicate it’s very likely confidential data has been released in the past. Think about it. Every one of Iowa’s 99 counties has access to I-Voters and the ability to export a list to fulfill a voter data request. “To my knowledge” – which I have been known to say – just means that I do not know about it. It does not mean it has never occurred. Let’s ensure it never occurs again.

Mr. Secretary: This is my open letter to you. Please fix I-Voters so no employee of yours or mine ever again has the opportunity to accidently include confidential voter data in a report that is issued to a member of the public. Regards, Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Communicating to the Board re voter data mistakenly released

August 10, 2017

Dear Board of Supervisors:

In my first update posted on my blog at 5:31pm on Saturday, August 5th, I indicated I talked to the Board Chair and to Supervisor Harris – see:

At 6:16pm (Friday), Linn County Supervisor and Board Chairman Brent Oleson called me to get an update.

At 8:53am (Saturday) – I returned a call to Linn County Supervisor John Harris and gave him an update.

On Sunday at 5:34pm, I talked to Board Chair Oleson and gave him an update.

Last night, Supervisor Houser stopped by and while were conversing, indicated no one called him about the incident.

Please pardon me, but when I am in the middle of crisis, I think I should be able to expect the Chair of the Board, duly elected by his peers, to update his peers as he sees fit and to be held accountable by his peers when he does not do so. And it appears Brent, that you did not inform your peers … and to their discredit, three of them did not bother to call me.

Stacey, you indicated I should have called you. Does County Attorney Vander Sanden call any member of the Board to inform you that he charged someone with murder? Does Sheriff Gardner call any member of the Board to inform you he arrested someone for robbing a bank? Why is it you let the Attorney and Sheriff operate autonomously and with impunity and think you need to micromanage the Auditor, Recorder, and Treasurer, and imply a threat to my budget (Stacey) if I don’t comply?

I called the county officials I thought I needed to inform (the Board Chair) and I returned calls to those who called me (Harris). If another incident occurs, I will likely do it the same way.

I will send the Board updates on this incident going forward so you have no excuse for not knowing what’s going on, but you have given me reason to believe that it’s “every man for himself” as far your interactions with each other are concerned and I evidently cannot count on one of you share communications with the other, which is exactly why I prefer to discuss matters with you as a Board and not individually.

I got asked about this topic by some news reporters because of the back in forth in yesterday’s Board meeting, which prompted this email to you.

No reply requested, expected, or necessary.


Joel D Miller – Linn County Auditor

Update #5: Linn County voter data

August 9, 2017

At this morning’s Board of Supervisors meeting, I handed out the attached letter which was emailed to Iowa Secretary of State (SoS) Paul Pate. You can view the video recording of the meeting by clicking on the previous link.

In my opinion, three things occurred in this incident. First, we received a bad email address that we had no reason to believe was bad, and we sent voter data to that email address. Second, an employee clicked on the wrong box during a data export and forwarded unauthorized voter data to a bad email address. And third, an option exists on the voter data export report to export the last four digits of social security numbers when there is no reason that our Auditor’s Office or any other Auditor’s Office needs the ability to export any portion of social security numbers or other confidential records.

The purpose of this letter is to urge the SoS to remove the ability for County Auditors to export confidential records from the State I-Voters voter registration system. BTW, Secretary Pate tried to reach me and left me a voice mail while I was attending the Board meeting.

I am pleased to report that we have made some additional progress today towards eliminating the risk of voter data falling into the hands of bad actors. Unfortunately, I cannot provide any additional details at this time. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

SoS letter 8.8.17.pdf

Update #4: Linn County voter data

August 8, 2017

An article in the August 5th Gazette caused a Linn County resident to contact the Auditors Office and Deputy Stonawski responded with the following email. The resident’s concerns are well placed and, again, I apologize to Linn County’s registered voters that voter data was accidentally released.

At this time, I have nothing more to report as we are pursuing legal remedies to bring closure to this incident. -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

From: Rebecca Stonawski
Sent: Tuesday, August 8, 2017 9:53 AM
Cc: Joel D. Miller

Dear Ms. F:

Thank you for reaching out. I understand your concerns, and I appreciate your patience in awaiting a response.

We have been working diligently over the past four days with both law enforcement and internet companies to minimize any potential concern. As a legal process is ongoing, I cannot comment specifically on the process. However, our goal is to take care of this issue with minimal damage to the public interest.

We are also communicating with the Linn County Board of Supervisors and the County Attorney to decide if any protectionary measures are needed. I am hopeful that protectionary measures will not be needed.

However, if they are, we will follow the law from the Code of Iowa in regard to notification of each person involved and action steps. You do not need to do anything at the present time.

I cannot comment on employee issues. However, we have placed a temporary moratorium on fulfilling voter data requests from our office. We will be working with the Iowa Secretary of States office to make sure that this never happens again.

I want to apologize sincerely for the stress and loss of trust that this has caused. We believe that there was no mal-intent on anyones part, and it was simply an accident. However, we recognize that this type of issue will take time to address.

I also encourage you to continue to vote. I understand your concerns, but we believe very strongly that the right to vote is one of the most important rights Americans have.

Thank you very much for expressing your concern. Our office made a mistake, and we have been working diligently to address it quickly. We welcome any additional questions you have.


Becky Stonawski, Deputy Commissioner of Elections, JD, PhD

#319-892-5300, opt. #1 rebecca.stonawski

Begin forwarded message:

From: CF
Date: August 5, 2017 at 10:03:30 AM CDT
To: <Auditor>
Subject: Voter data release

Mr. Miller

What a disappointment to read in the paper this morning about the voter data released with partial social security numbers.
A few weeks ago I wrote Paul Pate regarding releasing voter data for the Trump administration that sounded like it would have social security numbers. It seemed to be just an easier way for all information to be hacked, or given away so easily by the click on the keyboard.
I guess I don’t see why this information is needed on a weekly basis.
The last four digits of a social security # are asked for all the time when you have to call an insurance co., doctors office and many other personal things. I don’t see why this information is given at all.
I hope people that release things like this don’t continue to have access to it. It’s more than just a simple click on the wrong box. It’s our personal data.
It’s beginning to seem like being a registered voter is just too risky.


Update #3: Linn County voter data

August 7, 2017

At 12:02pm, I received the attached letter from Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker, who along with his fellow Board members, were briefed by my staff about two hours before.

I have been fully transparent about the accidental release of this voter data to the extent that providing additional details to the Board or the public may jeopardize our on-going efforts.

Earlier today, Gazette reporter James Lynch reached out to me for comments and his story, published at 2:02pm, is posted at http://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/government/local/linn-county-auditor-believes-risk-from-data-release-minimized-20170807 is accurate. -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

8-7-17 Aud.Miller.pdf

Update #2: Linn County voter data

August 7, 2017

I just received the text below from the Chair of the Linn County GOP. He gave me permission to post it on my blog.

In case you are wondering, the Linn County Democratic Party receives routine updates on voter data via the Iowa Democratic Party from the Iowa Secretary of State. -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Sent: Monday, August 7, 2017 9:50 AM

"Per the incident last week I have a few comments that I would like to make. The Linn County Republicans receive a regular email with voter registration data every other week. We requested this data for internal use and to aid our candidates. We have been receiving this information for a long time now.

This past Friday we received a similar email except that I am told that it contains more information such as Social Security numbers. I cannot verify this because I promptly deleted the email after being requested to do so by the auditors office. I received both a phone call and an email with the request to delete the email and then promptly provided phone numbers for other individuals who receive the email. I reached out to these individuals and so did the auditors office to verify that the incorrect email was deleted.

Upon further investigation it was realized that I provided an incorrect email to the auditors office. I had an incorrect email listed in my address book for one of the individuals which is why the auditors office also had an incorrect email that was receiving the documents.
The auditors office was very prompt to try and resolve the issue. I accept responsibility for my error and the auditors office has excepted responsibility on their end.

There’s no reason to believe that there is any malicious intent by either party. I hope we can move forward and continue to have a strong relationship with this office as they are vital to our party business.

Justin Wasson
Linn County GOP"

Update: Linn County voter data mistakenly released

August 5, 2017

The following is an update on a story in The Gazette by James Lynch titled Linn auditor investigating voter data release. Mr. Lynch’s story is accurate.

I sincerely apologize to you, the citizens of Linn County, for the unintentional and unauthorized release of your voter data!

Here’s a recap of the events:

At about 9:02am on 4 August 2017, a Linn County Elections employee made a clerical error resulting in a significant release of voters’ personal information. There was no intent for this error to occur; however, I have placed the employee on paid administrative leave until further notice.

Under Iowa law, voters may request voter data. Information from voter registration records can only be used:

·To request a registrant’s vote at an election (not how they voted, but if they voted);

·For a genuine political purpose;

·For bona fide political research; or

·For a bona fide official purpose by an elected official

My office keeps records of all voter list customers. This list is open to the public and is available at: http://www.linncounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/3967

As required by Iowa law, my office routinely fills these requests. In this instance, records were requested for four members of the Linn County Republican Party (LCRP). To my knowledge, the LCRP has been requesting voter data from the Auditor’s Office for years, if not decades.

One of my professional and experienced team members exported the requested information which legally includes name, address, date of birth, and political affiliation from I-Voters, Iowa’s statewide voter registration database. In the course of exporting that data, the employee accidentally clicked on the box allowing for the last four digits of individuals’ social security numbers.

At about 9:05am, Deputy Commissioner of Elections Rebecca Stonawski became aware of the issue and with the employee, contacted the owners of the email addresses via phone and email with instructions to delete the email containing the voter data. Three of the recipients were located and they immediately deleted the emails. Note: Early next week, I will ask each of those three individuals to sign a statement indicating they deleted the voter data.

One of the email recipients could not find the email containing the voter data in her inbox. It was then that my staff discovered that the individual’s email did not match what was given to the elections office by the LCRP. I do not believe that this was done with any intent. Instead, I believe a clerical error created the issue.

At about 11:45am, Deputy Stonawski alerted me after thoroughly confirming the LCRP’s intended email recipient did not receive the email containing the voter data and did not have access to the email account the voter data was mailed to. The employee was placed on paid administrative leave.

Over the course of the next few hours, my office contacted the Linn County Attorney, outside security vendors, the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, and members of the Linn County Board of Supervisors and its various department heads. My staff continued attempts to contact the owner of the email account in question and Google, the provider of Gmail. They also tried recalling the email – a feature available in Microsoft’s Outlook product – and they tried to confirm whether the email account was active, dormant, or otherwise..

At 4:25, I attempted to contact Deputy Secretary of State Carol Olson because I wanted to talk with Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.

At 4:26pm, I called Gazette reporter James Lynch and informed him of voter data release – see story link above.

At 4:28pm, I talked to Deputy SOS Olson and Dawn Williams, SOS Director of Elections, who indicated Secretary Pate was unavailable, but a message had been sent to him. In the course of my conversation with Olson and Williams, we discussed my recommendation that the “check box” for including the last four of SSNs be removed from the process used to fulfill voter data requests.

At 4:58pm, I attempted to contact the newsroom at WMT Radio.

At 5:04pm, I called KGAN reporter Nick Weig and informed him of the voter data release – see his story at http://cbs2iowa.com/news/local/breaking-linn-county-auditor-reports-accidental-data-breach

At 5:33pm, KCRG reporter Josh Scheinblum returned my call and I informed him of the voter data release – see his story at http://www.kcrg.com/content/news/Linn-County-social-security-numbers-accidently-sent-to-GOP-438621083.html

At 6:16pm, Linn County Supervisor and Board Chairman Brent Oleson called me to get an update.

At 6:37pm, LCRP Chairman Justin Wasson returned my call and I confirmed the facts surrounding the email account he had provided to my office. He advised that he had been sending emails to that account for a long time and never had any indication it was not owned by a member of his organization.

At 8:43pm – Deputy Stonawski and I concluded our final conversation of the evening.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

At 8:53am – I returned a call to Linn County Supervisor John Harris and gave him an update.

Starting at about 8am and throughout the day, Deputy Stonawski and I continued our efforts to find a live person at Google who could help us. After receiving direction from Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner and one of his lieutenants, we successfully reached the appropriate authorities within Google who provided the prerequisites we needed to proceed with our investigation.

Steps going forward include:

·Linn County Elections is investigating identity theft protection options. We will follow the advice of the Linn County Attorney’s office on what is appropriate in this type of situation.

·Linn County Elections will place a temporary moratorium on fulfilling any further voter information requests until sufficient safeguards are in place which also comply with Iowa law.

·Linn County Elections will encourage and work with the Iowa Secretary of State’s office to delete the database option which allows Social Security digits to be exported per a voter data request. Since it’s against Iowa law to provide SSNs, driver license operator numbers, and non-operator ID numbers to any member of the public except for law enforcement, I see no reason for the “check box” to include the last four of digits of SSNs in the process used to produce voter data lists.

·Linn County Elections will continue to work with the Linn County County Attorney’s Office in regard to the unidentified email address and the unauthorized receipt of voter data from the Linn County Elections.

Linn County Elections, as well as, the entire Linn County Auditor’s Office will actively verify email addresses provided by requestors’ prior to fulfilling public records requests.

Again, I sincerely apologize to you, the citizens of Linn County, for the unintentional and unauthorized release of your voter data! – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

NEWS RELEASE: Linn County Auditor’s Office Certifies 2017-2018 Property Taxes to the Linn County Treasurer

August 3, 2017

For more information, contact:

Stacey Law

Linn County Deputy Auditor

(319) 892-5300 opt. 2



August 3, 2017

Linn County Auditor’s Office Certifies 2017-2018 Property Taxes to the Linn County Treasurer

LINN COUNTY, IA – August 3, 2017 – Linn County Deputy Auditor Stacey Law announced today that the 2017-2018 Linn County property tax rolls have been certified. The tax rolls include: Real Estate Property Taxes, Gas and Electric Taxes, Non Gas & Electric Taxes, Monies and Credits Taxes and Grain Taxes.

Deputy Law states, “This is great news for Linn County taxpayers as they will have the opportunity to view and pay property taxes online sooner than in past years.”

The Linn County Real Estate division successfully compiled the property taxes four days prior to the anticipated deadline of August 7. In 2016, property taxes were certified on August 8.

The 2017-2018 Linn County property tax statements will be mailed in the near future.


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