Letter to the editor and my rebuttal

July 9, 2018

On 6/30/2018, a letter criticizing my job as Linn County Auditor was published in The Gazette.  You can read it here.

On 7/5/2018, my rebuttal was published in The Gazette.  It reads:

Response to Gary Thompson’s June 30 letter “Joel Miller should focus on doing his job”:

Did some precinct election officials, or PEOs, make mistakes on Election Day? Yes. Did they correct their mistakes? Yes. Am I responsible for their mistakes? Yes.

Did any of the mistakes affect the election results? No. I encourage you to become a PEO and work a 16-hour Election Day along with Supervisor John Harris, who recently signed up to work an election. You can apply online.

I do not subscribe to the premise that unless you are perfect, you cannot question another person or another elected official. No one is perfect.

Do I question other elected officials? Yes. For example, I am questioning the Iowa Secretary of State on why the elections infrastructure in 20 to 30 of Iowa’s counties is not being monitored for hackers.  Continue reading…. 

I plan to respond to any and all future letters to the editor that are critical of the Office of Linn County Auditor, its employees, or precinct election officials.  I will respond with facts that can be substantiated.  You are welcome to contact me at Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Election night reporting – keeping up with the “Joneses”

June 8, 2018

On Wednesday, June 6th, a member of the Linn County Board of Supervisors criticized Election Services (ES) for reporting our June 5th election night results later than other counties.

In the Fall of 2017, I asked ProCircular to conduct an audit of ES.  One of the topics reviewed was using cellular modems to transmit election night results.

In light of the Russian attempts to hack the 2016 election and the fact that Iowa was a target of the hacking, I have been discouraged by ProCircular and the US Department of Homeland Security from attaching cellular modems to our precinct scanners.  Why?  Per the experts’ advice, using cellular modems creates a vulnerability for hackers to exploit.  Instead, we have employees hand deliver the memory sticks with the election results to ES on election night.

Further, cell service in parts of Linn County – depending on the carrier you use – is undependable.  And not every carrier offers cellular modems that are approved for use with our precinct scanners.

When I was elected County Auditor in 2007, ES relied upon land-line based telephone services and modems attached to precinct scanners to report election night results to our central computer.  In the November 2008 election, I recall a local TV reporter thrusting a microphone into my face and asking me why the results were delayed.  I told him that a couple of modems failed and our fallback plan was to have the results hand delivered from the precinct to ES on election night.  That is the last time I relied upon modems to report precinct election results.

And while technology has improved in the last ten years, if we cannot receive 100% of the results at about the same time on election night, e.g., from the Prairieburg, Walker, or Coggon precincts, then what have we accomplished?

If ES buys modems for the November 2018 general election, here’s what would happen:

  • We will have spent about $30,000 on cellular modems;
  • We will have created an additional vulnerability for our election night results to get hacked;
  • We will have added one more piece of technology for the precinct election officials to be trained on, to use, and to worry about; and
  • We will have created the impression that Linn County’s election night results will be reported to the public as fast or faster than surrounding counties who use modems.

And if our election night results are reported in 30 minutes or less, what value did we add to the election?  We reported our UNOFFICIAL election night results an hour quicker than before.  We satisfied a few people.  And we made 153,000 people who did not vote in the election pay 90% of the costs for $30,000 in modems.  That is not a good use of tax dollars.  – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

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

June 4, 2018

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. 

Octogenarians beating 18-49 year olds

June 1, 2018

The eighty year olds are beating the 18 year olds, the 25 year olds, the 35 year olds, and the 49 year olds. Where? At the early (absentee) voting ballot box. Why?

I certainly hope election day turnout among the 18-49 year olds overwhelms the 80 year olds and over age group by the time voting ceases on election day. But what if it does not? What is the message?

I do not understand why non-voters are unable or unwilling to draw a direct connection between some of the things that are happening to them in life, and the candidates who run for office, and the candidates who get elected to office? I know non-voters have their reasons – I conducted a survey in 2010. But are their reasons fact or fiction?

If you already voted or plan to vote on June 5th, take some time over the weekend to talk to someone who never votes or infrequently votes about the importance of voting. They may not want to vote in the primary election, but that gives you a reason to continue the conversation until the general election. Friends should not let friends get away with not voting. – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Early Voting Demographic Groups by Gender by Party as of 6-1-2018

 

Tell Board of Supervisors to freeze debt spending

May 22, 2018

The Linn County Board of Supervisors seems to be on a spending spree.  They have accumulated $23M in debt since 2008 when Supervisors Oleson and Rogers were elected.  And lately, they have been adding to that debt with the Harris Building, bonds for Conservation, and bonds for Prospect Meadows.

I say it is time for the Supervisors to freeze debt spending.  Why?  

Today’s Supervisors froze their salaries earlier this year because they thought the Supervisors taking office in January 2019 should tackle the issue of Supervisor salaries.  If today’s Supervisors thought freezing their salaries was a great idea, then likewise, they should avoid approving any further debt in 2018 that Supervisors in 2019 and beyond have to deal with.

Today’s Supervisors act like there is no tomorrow.  The fact is:  at least two of the existing five supervisors will be sworn into office in January 2019 unless some yet-to-be announced candidate runs against one of the incumbents and wins in November 2018.

So why the spending spree now?  The only possible explanation is to buy votes or campaign contributions.  And one or more of the incumbents thinks being the initiator(s) of the spending spree provides an advantage with the voters in November.

So who were the initiators of the $31.5M Harris Building.  From my vantage point, Oleson, then Rogers and Walker.  Who is the Prospect Meadows $3M bond initiator – Oleson; the Dows Farm $7M bond issue – Oleson; and Conservation $40M bond initiator – Oleson.

Can the taxpayers of Linn County afford to keep Oleson and his enablers (Rogers and Walker) on the Board in 2019?  More importantly, can Marion taxpayers afford to retain Oleson for another term?  

If you live in the City of Marion, you own a share of $55M in bond debt.  If you live in the City of Marion and reside in the Marion Independent School District (MISD), you own a share of an additional $7M in bond debt.  And since you live in Linn County, you own a share of an additional $23M in bond debt now which current Supervisors are going to increase by $40M in 2019.  

Congratulations Marionites in MISD, you will own a share of $125M in bond debt by the end of 2019.

Unfortunately, the debt gets worse for those Marionites residing in the Linn-Mar School District (LMSD), which currently owns about $25M in bond debt.  You are carrying $18M more in bond debt than MISD so you will own a share of $143M in bond debt by the end of 2019.

I ask again:  Can the taxpayers of Linn County afford to keep Oleson and his enablers (Rogers and Walker) on the Board in 2019?  Can Marion taxpayers afford to re-elect Oleson for another term?

I say it is time for the Supervisors to freeze spending.  

Call your Supervisor today and tell them to freeze debt spending now!  Paid for by Miller for the People. 

Early voting in Linn County – nothing to get excited about

May 14, 2018

Early (absentee) voting in Linn County does not appear to be setting any records with three weeks to go until the June 5th primary election. As usual, the 50 and older voters are the most active – see attachments.

You can find other statistics on the upcoming primary and other elections at http://www.linncounty.org/157

Think about where you are going to be on June 5th. Think about the condition of your health. Think about whether you have an ID that you can present at the polls. And consider if early voting might be in your best interests. Hopefully, I will see you at the polls! Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

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gender.pdf

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NEWS RELEASE: Linn County Accepting Applications for Economic Development Funds

May 11, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 11, 2018

For more information, contact:

Joi Alexander

Communications Director

(319) 892-5118

joi.alexander

Linn County Accepting Applications for Economic Development Funds

LINN COUNTY, IA – May 11, 2018 – The Linn County Board of Supervisors is now accepting applications from organizations seeking economic development funding from Linn County. The economic development fund is used to enhance the quality of life throughout Linn County by fostering and supporting economic growth.

This is a competitive grant process open to organizations located in Linn County or that have a branch location in Linn County. This year $140,000 is available. Grant funds must be used for projects or programs that benefit Linn County residents. Preferred applications will be for projects/programs that accomplish the following:

· Promote economic growth for Linn County

· Demonstrate return on investment dollars

· Do not duplicate current economic development initiatives

· Demonstrate a sustainability plan for project continuation beyond Linn County funding

The application deadline is Friday, June 29, 2018 at 4 p.m. Application information can be found on Linn County’s website www.linncounty.org.

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Campaigning during office hours

May 9, 2018

Is it ethical for elected officials who claim they work 40 hours a week, e.g., county supervisors, to campaign during business hours?  I think the law allows it, but who has time to follow us around to see how we are spending our time during the day?

But campaigning for one elected office during office hours while holding another elected office has been a common complaint of taxpayers for generations.  Everyone can likely think of a member of Congress who got elected and within a year or two decided to run for President.  I have often heard the question:  How are they representing me in Congress when they are never there to cast a vote?

So with that complaint in mind, I am going to try to do something that I am not required to do.  I am going to try to NOT conduct any activity which the public would consider a campaign activity when the Office of Linn County Auditor is open for business.  The exception will be the lunch hour, i.e., Noon to 1pm.

To do the preceding, I am going to need the public’s assistance and understanding.  For example, if you are a member of the news media and you want an interview related to my campaign for county supervisor, then please plan on doing the interview before 8am or over my lunch hour or after 5pm, or on the weekend.  The same times apply to returning phone calls and replying to emails related to my campaign.

I have a full-time job to do as county auditor.  Observing the preceding self-imposed rules allows me to balance my duties as auditor with my campaign for supervisor.  And it is ethical.  Now, if everyone will just cooperate.  Paid for by Miller for the People.

Let’s get tough on cybersecurity for elections now

May 7, 2018

I don’t believe in asking for permission when the Iowa Legislature has already given me the power and/or the duty to get the job done.  That’s why I’m questioning why Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate @IowaSOS is slow to push for cybersecurity relating to Iowa’s elections infrastructure.  Please recall Iowa was targeted, but not hacked in 2016 – close to 2 years ago.

The Iowa Official Register states:  Secretary Pate is the Chief Elections Officer for Iowa.  Secretary Pate is also the chairman of the bipartisan Voters Registration Commission. The commission oversees policies and procedures related to Iowa’s voter registration system.

The 2013-2014 edition of the Register indicates the Secretary of State “… prescribes uniform election practices and procedures.”  This is accomplished via Chapter 721 of the Iowa Administrative Code, which gives the Secretary the authority to mandate requirements or fill in the gaps when the Legislature has not been specific enough to ensure uniformity among, e.g., Iowa’s 99 county commissioners of elections.

In a face-to-face meeting on 5/4/2018, I asked Secretary Pate to mandate two things:

1> Require all counties accessing the statewide voter registration system to meet minimum cybersecurity standards; and

2>  Require all users of the statewide voter registration system to complete Securing the Human training which is offered for free by the State.

It’s not enough for the Secretary and his staff to talk about “best practices” related to elections infrastructure.  It’s time to start mandating minimum requirements for the devices and people accessing Iowa elections infrastructure.

The June primary election is less than 30 days away.  The general election is less than 6 months away.  “Secretary Pate!  Let’s get tough on cybersecurity for elections now!”  – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Joel D. Miller – a biography by Rick Smith

May 7, 2018

Joel D. Miller is the elected county auditor in Linn County, Iowa’s second-largest county and home to the state’s second-largest city, Cedar Rapids.

Miller has occupied the post since early 2007 when he won a special election to fill a vacancy. He was easily reelected in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

Now, in 2018, he is running for one of three seats on the Linn County Board of Supervisors, whose policies he has not been bashful about questioning and challenging from time to time.

A most recent case in point: Miller said the board erred when it handpicked a contractor to build the county’s new $28.7-million public health building. The board should have taken sealed, competitive bids, Miller said.

In his election run for supervisor, Miller has changed his party affiliation from Democrat to no-party to make the point that county elections in Iowa, like city elections, should be non-partisan.

Miller’s first foray into elective office came in 2001 when he was elected to the non-partisan Robins City Council. He was reelected in 2003 and was elected as Robins’ part-time mayor in 2005. This meant that he held two elected offices, county auditor and Robins mayor, for 10 months in 2007. 

Continue reading …. 

Paid for by Joel D. Miller of Robins, Iowa

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