Linn County Auditor Joel Miller confirmed on September 16 that he will seek the Democratic nomination for secretary of state, pledging to take the fight to Republican incumbent Paul Pate in order to "bring back trust and fairness in Iowa's elections."
Miller has served as auditor of Iowa's second-largest county since 2007 and was most recently re-elected in 2020. He's been exploring a bid for statewide office since late last year; he and Pate have clashed over numerous election administration issues, from absentee ballot drop boxes to absentee ballot request forms to voter list maintenance.
The auditor's campaign announcement highlighted one of those battles, noting that Miller "made national headlines during the 2020 election when he was sued by President Donald Trump’s campaign for expanding voter participation and health and safety measures in the wake of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic."
That lawsuit stemmed from the decision by three county auditors to defy a directive from Pate and fill in voters' information on absentee ballot request forms mailed to all registered voters in their jurisdiction. A District Court judge invalidated the pre-filled forms, and the Iowa Supreme Court later agreed. Asked how he would respond to Republican critics who say the courts sided with them in the dispute, Miller told Bleeding Heartland via email, "I did the right thing. I would do it again. And if I'm elected, no county auditor will ever be in this position again because as Secretary of State, I will work to make voting easy again."
The September 16 news release said,
“I brought the fight to the Trump administration when they tried to make it harder for Iowans to vote and now I’m ready to take on and defeat Trump’s favorite Secretary of State,” said Joel Miller. “Under Paul Pate’s watch we’ve seen early voting periods cut in half and hundreds of thousands of voters unlawfully inactivated from the electorate -- that’s a dismal failure in leadership. I’m running because I want to bring back trust and fairness in Iowa's elections and restore leadership to the Secretary of State's office. Under a Miller administration, we will make it easier for Iowans to cast their ballot and won’t be afraid to speak truth to blatant lies about our elections. I’m happy to be in the race and I’m ready to get to work for Iowa families.”
Miller told the Cedar Rapids Gazette's James Lynch that he has nothing personal against Pate but objects to the incumbent's "total lack of leadership."
Pate has “been the chief election administrator, but he's never actually run a local election, He has never walked in my shoes,” Miller said. “He doesn't seem to empathize with the challenges that I have, that 99 county auditors have in running elections.”
Before Miller can take on Pate, he'll have to get through a Democratic primary next June. Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker also announced this week that he's running for secretary of state. I'm not aware of any other Democrats seriously considering this race.