Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

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. 

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

NEWS RELEASE: Early Voting Begins Monday, May 7 for the Primary Election

May 4, 2018

For more information, contact:

Becky Stonawski

Deputy Commissioner of Elections

(319) 892-5300, ext. 1



Friday, May 4, 2018

Early Voting Begins Monday, May 7 for the Primary Election

LINN COUNTY, IA – May 4, 2018 – Early, absentee voting begins Monday, May 7, 2018 for the Partisan Primary Elections.

About This Election

In Iowa, county commissioners of elections are responsible for administering Primary Elections for the Democratic, Libertarian, and Republican Parties. These elections are a nomination process whereby each party nominates individuals to be the party’s candidate on the General Election ballot. Therefore, winners of a Primary Election race do not win election to office, but win a nomination to move on to the General Election.

Primary Elections in Iowa are “closed” Primaries. This means that there are three elections happening on the same day – one for Democrats, one for Libertarians and one for Republicans. A voter must declare a party before being issued a ballot. To “declare,” a voter simply needs to indicate, on an Absentee Ballot Request Form or at the polls, which party’s ballot they want. A voter cannot be issued a ballot from more than one party. A voter’s party affiliation is updated in state records if any changes are made.

Voting In-Person:

Beginning Monday May 7, individuals may vote in-person at the Election Services Department of the Auditor’s Office. The office is located in the Linn County Public Service Center, 935 2nd St. SW in Cedar Rapids. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Voting by Mail:

Voters may also request to have an absentee ballot mailed to them. Absentee requests must be received by Friday, May 25. These voters may return their ballot by mail or hand-deliver their ballot to the Election Services Department. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked on or before Monday, June 4 in order to be counted.

Election Portal:

Go to to gain access to all election-related information for Linn County.

Dates & Deadlines

Due Date Event / Deadline
5/07/2018 Absentee Voting to Begin
5/25/2018 Last Day to Pre-register to Vote for this Election
5/25/2018 Last Day to Receive Requests for an Absentee Ballot to be Mailed
6/2/2018 Auditor’s Office Open for Absentee Voting – Saturday
6/4/2018 Last Day to Vote Absentee (Auditor’s Office)

Election Day

6/12/2018 CountyCanvass of Votes

For questions regarding this election, call the Linn County Election Services Office at (319) 892-5300, ext. 1 or email elections.

What do elections cost?

April 20, 2018

On April 3rd, elections were held for the City of Alburnett, the Alburnett School District, and the Mount Vernon School District. The overall cost per vote for the elections was $8.03 per vote – see attachment.

Per Code of Iowa section 47.3 paragraph 2: The county commissioner of elections shall certify to the county board of supervisors a statement of cost for an election. The cost shall be assessed by the county board of supervisors against the political subdivision for which the election was held.

As the data in the Statement indicates, the Office of Linn County Auditor cannot charge the cities and schools for 100% of the costs of an election, i.e., the Auditor’s Office absorbed about 25% of the costs for these elections.

Our Office has a vested interest in any election that occurs, which is why we work hard to increase voter turnout, which in turn lowers the cost per vote. So why not vote the next time you have chance? Paid for by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Cost to taxpayers for this post = $0.oo

4-25 Statement of Election Costs 040318.pdf

Voter Ready Toolkit Update

April 10, 2018

The Secretary of State’s Office issued the press release below. If you would like a someone from Linn County Elections to speak to your group about being Voter Ready, please fill out a request form here. Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

The Iowa Secretary of State’s Office has developed a free educational toolkit for groups and organizations like yours to utilize to inform your members about recent changes to Iowa election laws. We are offering you access to these educational materials so that you can help us spread the word and make sure your members are #VoterReady.

The toolkit is now available for your use at this link . To sign in, simply click “New User” and sign in using your email address as your username. You will receive an email asking you to reset your password.

All of the materials contained in the electronic toolkit are downloadable. Tools include:

  • Voter Integrity rack card
  • Email templates
  • News release templates
  • Power point templates
  • Sample social media messages
  • FAQ sheets
  • Infographics
  • Samples of the Voter ID card and envelope

Office of Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate • State Capitol • Des Moines, IA 50319

NEWS RELEASE: Polls to Open 7 a.m. April 3 for Special Elections

April 2, 2018


April 2, 2018

For more information, contact:

Becky Stonawski

Deputy Commissioner of Elections

(319) 892-5300, ext 1


Polls to Open 7 a.m. April 3

for City of Alburnett, Alburnett Community School District, and Mount Vernon Community School District Special Election

LINN COUNTY, IA — With the potential for snow in tomorrow’s forecast, Linn County Election Services is reminding residents that polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 3 for the Special Election for the City of Alburnett, Alburnett Community School District, and Mount Vernon Community School District.

The polling location for both the City of Alburnett and Alburnett Community School District Elections is Alburnett United Methodist Church. It is located at 221 S Main Ave. in Alburnett.

The polling location for Mount Vernon Community School District is Mount Vernon City Hall. It is located at 213 1st St. NW in Mount Vernon.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Should winter weather impact our area, voters are advised to exercise caution while driving and leave ample driving time.

For questions regarding this election, call Linn County Election Services at (319) 892-5300, ext 1. ###

Rebuttal to NBC concerning attempts to hack Iowa’s voter registration system

February 15, 2018

Iowa’s Secretary of State is taking exception to NBC’s report and he wants Iowa’s county auditors & commissioners of elections to know the facts. The one fact that no one seems to dispute: Iowa was a target in 2016. Read on. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

From: Kline, Ken [SOS] []
Sent: Thursday, February 15, 2018 11:18 AM

County Auditors:

You have seen recent reports from NBC News about attempted election hacking in 2016. Secretary Pate wants to ensure that you have accurate information so that you have a good understanding of the issues, and are able to answer questions you may receive.

First and foremost, there have been no unauthorized intrusions into Iowa’s voter registration system. Prior to the 2016 General Election, persons in the Russian government scanned the Secretary of State’s public website, which is not connected to the voter registration system. Security experts liken a scan of this type to a burglar who drives through a neighborhood looking for an easy house to break in, as opposed to hacking, which would be an intrusion or break-in. Because the scan was done on the public website, and not the voter registration system, the “burglars” were not even driving through the right neighborhood. Again, there have been no unauthorized intrusions into Iowa’s voter registration system.

The NBC story includes inaccuracies, and even contradicts itself in the first two paragraphs. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Association of Secretaries of State have strongly criticized the NBC report:

Secretary Pate takes cybersecurity seriously, and this office partners with the OCIO’s Chief Information Security Officer, the Iowa Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission, MS-ISAC (Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center), and others to ensure system and data integrity. Additionally, Secretary Pate is a member of the Government Coordinating Council for Elections Infrastructure Subsector. This group was established in October 2017 to shape how the DHS critical infrastructure designation for elections is administered at both the state and local levels. Our IT Department is vigilant in protecting the voter registration database, employing continuous monitoring and numerous protections to keep the system secure.

It is important for the public to know that this office – in partnership with the county auditors – is committed to safeguarding the Iowa’s election infrastructure. News stories based on inaccurate information serve only to undermine public confidence in our elections.

We will continue to keep you informed and to work with you on best practices regarding cybersecurity. If you have any questions or need more information, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Ken Kline
Deputy Commissioner of Elections
Elections and Voter Registration

Office of Iowa Secretary of State Paul D. Pate

(515) 242-5071

HELP WANTED: Elections office coordinator

February 12, 2018

Interested in working in elections on a permanent basis? We have an opportunity for you.

Linn County already held one election in 2018 and we will likely administer another 3-4 special elections, as well as, a primary and general election in 2018. We are busy!

The elections office coordinator position was offered to current Linn County employees first per the County’s union contracts; however, now, the public can apply. If you are interested or have questions, please contact mailto:joel.miller – Linn County Auditor

ElectionsOfficeCoordinatorFebruary 2018.pdf

Electronic poll books tested at Lisbon election

February 8, 2018

During Tuesday’s election in Lisbon, poll workers (PEOs) tested Poll Pads, i.e., the electronic poll books (EPBs) we are considering using for future elections. EPBs are rapidly replacing paper-based election registers in Iowa and across the nation.

Overall, Tuesday’s test of the Poll Pads was successful, i.e., the PEOs efficiently checked-in the voters and dispensed ballots. When the election concluded, the Poll Pad provided reports – see attached – that are as yet unavailable from the other two EPBs being used in Iowa.

The Voter Turnout reports from the Poll Pad allowed us to review when voters checked-in to vote. For example, the best time to go to vote on Tuesday was at 7am, Noon, or after 7pm. The dip in voters at Noon is a surprise because we always thought there was a surge of voters over the lunch hour, but that was not the case on Tuesday.

Another report is the Types of Voter ID used. Even though the Iowa Secretary of State mailed out over 120,000 voter ID cards in December, only one was presented at the voter check-in table. This is the type of data we need to see to understand what types of IDs the voters have or do not have.

Imagine if you knew in advance if the polls were busy BEFORE you headed to the polls. When we go to the airport, we can see if our plane is going to arrive on-time or takeoff on-time. Election administrators are not asking for too much when we ask for funds to modernize our elections; we are only asking to use the technology that is available to everyone else in the country.

Poll Pad technology is available now. We demonstrated it on Tuesday. How much is it worth to you? How much is your time worth? What technology should be used to administer elections in Linn County? If you have an opinion on this topic, send an email to mailto:Joel.Miller – Linn County Auditor

voter_turnout 15 min.pdf

voter_turnout by hour.pdf


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