Pate on Voter ID bill – WMT interview

March 22, 2017

Iowa Secretary of State (SoS) Paul Pate was interviewed by Drivetime 380 on Monday, March 20th. He and I do not agree on the cost of an ePollbook or how many ePollbooks are needed per precinct in Linn County. He indicates the bill currently does not require Linn County to buy ePollbooks, but admits we will likely want to, which is correct. Pate states we can borrow the money to buy the ePollbooks. I admit we can borrow the money, but someone has to pay back the loan. That “someone” is the taxpayers of Linn County.

So let’s play this out on a statewide basis. According to testimony offered in the Iowa House of Representatives during the debate of HF516 – (I was in the House gallery during the debate) – 600 precincts in Iowa do not have ePollbooks. If that’s true and the average number of ePollbooks required in those precincts equals three and the per ePollbook cost is $870, then 3 x $870 x 600 = $1,566,000 That’s $1.5M to be borrowed from a revolving loan fund that that has yet to be funded. And that’s $1.5M that has to be paid back to the State of Iowa by the county taxpayers residing in 20 plus Iowa counties.

If you’re wondering: Why only three ePollbooks per precincts? The SoS assumes three per precinct based upon Johnson County, which does not need as many ePollbooks per precinct due to 50% of its voters voting early before election day. In the November 2016 election, only 35% of Linn County’s voters voted early; hence, we have more voters at the polls and that’s why I believe we need an average of four (4) ePollbooks per precinct.

If the true cost of the loan fund and some of the other costs associated with this bill would have been included in the bill, it would have been dead on arrival in the House due to the State’s financial condition. Instead, HF516 only includes a measly $50K to educate the State’s 2 million voters. HF516 – the Voter ID bill – is a bad bill and I am opposed to it because in the end, it’s going to increase the taxes paid by Linn County’s taxpayers. – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

“Revolving loan fund” is legislative double-speak for “unfunded mandate”

March 16, 2017

So the Iowa Secretary of Secretary of State and the Iowa House Majority want to modernize Iowa’s election system with ePollbooks. I agree with them – every county should have ePollbooks in every precinct so every Iowa voter has the same experience whether you reside in Adams County, Polk County, or Linn County.

The rub? The SoS and the House Majority do not want to pay for it. They want to loan Linn County money for the ePollbooks. Don’t loans have to be paid back? Of course they do! And by who? The taxpayers of Linn County; hence, I have said all along that the “revolving loan fund” is legislative double-speak for an “unfunded mandate”.

If I don’t “modernize” our precincts by buying ePollbooks, then every voter registering to vote on election day who cannot be checked with an ePollbook against an SoS provided Felon List has to vote a provisional ballot. And that provisional ballot will not be counted until it’s cleared the Felon List. In the November 2016 election, 510 voters voted provisionally. I’m guessing we will accumulate several thousand provisional ballots in the next general election if we do not have ePollbooks in every precinct.

I project Linn County’s start-up costs to implement HF516 to be at least $392K or greater – see attached spreadsheet for details.

I will be commenting on this topic in the future. -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Fiscal Impact of HF516.xls

HF516: Creating a patchwork of ePollbooks across the State

March 7, 2017

Testimony by Linn County Auditor Joel D. Miller to the House State Government Committee on 6 March 2017 at the Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa

Chairman Rizer and Honorable Committee:

I am Joel Miller, County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections for Linn County. I have been a county auditor for just over 10 years. I have overseen 54 elections in which about one million ballots have been cast.

I am against HF516 for a number of reasons, but my primary reason is that it does not go far enough to ensure that Iowa does not have a “patchwork” of some counties using ePollbook technology and some not.

Patchwork seems to be the operative word legislators have used for wanting to dismantle the minimum wage ordinances passed in several counties. Why would the Legislature allow a patchwork of voting technology to be used in Iowa’s elections?

Currently, Linn County is one of the 20 plus counties not using ePollbooks. Under HF516, a revolving loan fund would be available to Linn County.

In my February 22nd email to you Rep Rizer, I copied Reps Zumbach and Taylor, and indicated the cost for Linn County to buy ePollbooks for our 86 precincts is over $278K. I informed you that Linn County just spent over $834K for new ballot scanners and ADA devices. Linn County set aside funds over a four year period in order to buy that election equipment.

In that same February 22nd email, I wrote that “ePollbooks in every precinct in the State is the direction we should be headed – I have no doubt about that”.

Rep Rizer, you named HF516 the “Election Modernization and Integrity Act” How are you modernizing elections: If some counties have ePollbooks and some don’t? How are you modernizing elections: If there is no deadline for every county in the State to have ePollbooks? How are you modernizing elections: If no one can agree upon what an ePollbook is, e.g., the Secretary of State has one version and the County Auditors’ Association has another?

And what good does it do to modernize the precincts with ePollbooks when the Secretary of State has compared the Statewide Voter Registration system to a computer operating on Windows 95?

Yes, Honorable Committee, we need to modernize the equipment we use at our precincts for elections. We need ePollbooks in every precinct connected to the Statewide Voter Registration system in real-time. And that Honorable Committee is going to take more than a revolving loan fund.

The taxpayers of Linn County spent almost $835K to administer elections in calendar year 2016. That’s more than this bill proposes to loan to the entire State to modernize our elections.

Honorable Committee, I urge you to vote down HF516 until you find a way to fund the modernization you are indicating that Linn County and other counties need to increase the integrity of our elections. The last thing this State needs is a patchwork of ePollbooks scattered about the State.

In response to some previous speakers who impugned the reputation of elections in Linn County, I say,“Yes, voters live in motels and hotels- I know, I verified they lived there. Yes, voters arrive in busses from independent living facilities – I know, I’ve seen them arrive”. (cutoff by the Chair)

Stonawski sworn into office

February 1, 2017

On Tuesday, January 31st, Rebecca Stonawski was sworn into office as Deputy Auditor / Deputy Commissioner of Elections for Linn County.  Rebecca replaces former Deputy Auditor Tim Box.


From left to right:  Associate District Judge Russell Keast, Deputy Commissioner of Elections Rebecca Stonawski, Linn County Auditor Joel D. Miller, First Deputy Auditor Becky Shoop, and Deputy Auditor Stacey Law.

From left to right: Associate District Judge Russell Keast, Deputy Auditor Rebecca Stonawski, Linn County Auditor Joel D. Miller, First Deputy Auditor Becky Shoop, and Deputy Auditor Stacey Law.

$8K budgeted to raise the High Water Rock

January 31, 2017

[Update per @Jay_Vavra : The Rock is owned by the State of Iowa]

Evidently, the Flood of 2016 moved the High Water Rock in the Cedar River and the Linn County Board of Supervisors wants it restored to its original height/location. Yesterday, on a 5-0 vote, the Board tentatively approved $8,000 in its FY2018 budget to restore the Rock.

We’re waiting for the Feds to release millions of dollars for flood protection for Cedar Rapids. What message are we sending to the Feds when we allocate tax dollars to restore a rock in the middle of a river? -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Preliminary List Approved Offers.pdf

New Deputy Auditor / Commissioner of Elections appointed

January 30, 2017

NEWS RELEASE – LINN COUNTY, IA – January 30, 2017 – Linn County Auditor Joel Miller has appointed Rebecca Stonawski as Deputy Auditor/Deputy Commissioner of Elections. Ms. Stonawski will be sworn in on Tuesday, January 31st at 12:00 noon by Judge Russell Keast. The swearing-in ceremony will be held in the Board of Supervisors formal board room at the Jean Oxley Linn County Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW, Cedar Rapids. The public is welcome to attend.

Originally from Monticello, Iowa, Ms. Stonawski has degrees from Yale, George Washington University, and the University of Iowa. For six years, she taught Political Science courses at Luther College and Concordia University. For the past few years, she has worked as an attorney in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She is joined by her husband Ondrej and two daughters. Ms. Stonawski looks forward to working with the public as she enters this new position.

Tax levies – which side of the street costs more?

December 8, 2016

Do you live in a Linn County tax district with the highest tax levy rate or the lowest tax levy rate?  Are you planning on building a house or buying house?

Linn County is comprised of 181 tax districts.  I live in one of the districts with the highest tax levy.  A couple of blocks away in the same city is a district with one of the lowest tax levy rates.  I should have performed more due diligence 15 years ago before I built my present home.  If I had, I would be paying less taxes today than I am paying now.

If you are getting ready to build or buy, review this map before you sign on the dotted line.  Be informed.  -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Help wanted: Deputy commissioner of elections

November 29, 2016

A not so funny thing happened yesterday (11/28).  Tim Box, Deputy Commissioner of Elections for the last eight years, tendered his resignation and his last day of work will be 1/20/2017.

Elections are stressful and administering this year’s election was about as stressful as it gets.  Tim is leaving on-top because he assembled the greatest team ever to administer one of the most stressful, scrutinized, and important elections ever.

Cheers to Tim!  Cheers to the Team!

So I’m looking for someone to become Linn County’s Deputy Commissioner of Elections.  Give Tim a call at 319-892-5300 option 1 and see what the job entails.  And if you’re still interested, contact me at

Eventually, the job will be posted on Job Opportunities, but don’t waste time waiting for the posting.  Start your due diligence now because I plan to fill the job around 1/15/2017.  – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Auditor’s report 10/6 – 11/23/2016

November 23, 2016

Time flies when an election is underway especially when you and your team are administering the election.

Today, I finished reviewing what occurred between October 6th and November 23rd, and captured some anecdotes in my Auditor’s Report.  If I already posted something via Twitter or via this blog or it appeared in the press, then I may not have referenced in my Report.  Happy Thanksgiving!  – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Who voted for you?

November 21, 2016

“I will want to see (the write-in votes) before I officially concede the election to you.”  That was the message I received on Facebook on November 9th, a day after the election.

I initiated the posting of the write-in votes after being elected Auditor.  The law does not require that write-ins be posted; however, in the interest of transparency and accountability, they have been posted for each applicable election from 2010 through 2016.

The write-ins for the 2016 election consume 582 pages.  The absentee precinct votes are searchable so plug in you name to see if you received any votes.  The election day precinct-by-precinct votes were hand written by the precinct election officials and are not searchable.

Who voted for you?  No one knows except for you.  Enjoy!  -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

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