# Jamie Fitzgerald



Unlike Whitver, Miller-Meeks put herself in legal jeopardy

During the first election cycle after redistricting, it’s typical for many Iowa politicians to move, seeking more favorable territory or to avoid a match-up against another incumbent. What set this year apart from a normal campaign under a new map: major controversies related to those address changes.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver faced a formal challenge to his voter registration, after a resident of his new district claimed he didn’t meet the constitutional requirement to be on the November ballot.

And this week, Iowa Starting Line’s Pat Rynard was first to report that U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks declared herself to be living at a friend’s house, on the last day she could change her voter registration without showing proof of address.

While Whitver played it close to the line, he successfully laid the groundwork for his voter registration change. Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald determined last week that Whitver’s declared residency at a condo in Grimes was valid. The top Iowa Senate Republican also avoided any voter fraud allegations by not casting a ballot in the 2022 primary or general elections.

In contrast, the circumstances surrounding Miller-Meeks’ address change raise legitimate questions about whether she committed election misconduct or perjury, which are both class “D” felonies in Iowa.

Staff for Miller-Meeks did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about her voter registration. Nor did State Senator Chris Cournoyer, whose Scott County home the member of Congress now claims as a residence.

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How Joel Miller won the Democratic race for Iowa secretary of state

Going into the June 7 primary, I anticipated a close Democratic contest for secretary of state. Linn County Auditor Joel Miller and Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker had few substantive disagreements and few opportunities to reach a mass audience. The campaign received relatively little news coverage, and the candidates didn’t get speaking time at the Iowa Democratic Party’s large fundraiser in April.

While Miller’s home base was in a larger county, Van Lancker had raised and spent much more on the secretary of state campaign. His team had a paid consultant, purchased the Iowa Democratic Party’s voter file, and began significant digital advertising two months before the primary. Van Lancker spent $5,863 on Facebook ads alone, making tens of thousands of impressions, according to Meta’s ad library. In contrast, the majority of Miller’s campaign spending went toward collecting enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The result was surprisingly lopsided: Miller received 97,896 votes (71.7 percent) to 38,602 (28.3 percent) for Van Lancker. The winner carried 98 counties, losing only Clinton, where voters had previously elected Van Lancker four times.

I interviewed Miller about his victory on June 8 and reached out to engaged Democratic voters for insight on how they picked a candidate for this race.

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Van Lancker highlights early voting in first ad

Iowa Democrats have only two competitive statewide primaries this year: for U.S. Senate and for secretary of state. Both Democrats running for the latter office are long-serving county auditors who are not widely known outside their home counties (Linn County for Joel Miller and Clinton County for Eric Van Lancker).

Van Lancker began introducing himself to a wider circle of voters this week with his first digital ad. The 60-second spot highlights the benefits of early voting. According to an April 5 news release, the campaign will release a 30-second version of this ad for television in May. Under a law Republicans enacted last year, Iowa’s early voting period will begin on May 18, just 20 days before the June 7 primary.

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Srinivas, Bagniewski running for Iowa House seats in Des Moines

The Iowa House Democratic caucus is poised to have more turnover than usual after the 2022 election, as the new legislative map created open seats in some solid blue areas, and several sitting lawmakers have confirmed they won’t seek re-election.

In Des Moines, Megan Srinivas and Sean Bagniewski are the first Democrats to begin campaigning in two House districts where the winner of the June primary is virtually guaranteed to be elected next November.

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Linn County auditor exploring 2022 bid for Iowa secretary of state

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller may run for secretary of state next year, the Democrat announced on his blog January 30. Miller created an exploratory committee in November with the goal of recruiting “a current or former county auditor to run for Secretary of State in 2022 or to run for Secretary of State myself.”

If Miller runs for statewide office, he’ll transfer money raised by the exploratory committee to his campaign account. He plans to transfer any unspent funds to the Iowa Democratic Party if he decides not to challenge Republican incumbent Paul Pate.

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Iowa secretary of state backpedals on ballot drop box crackdown

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate will not seek to prevent county auditors from setting up drop boxes outside their offices for voters to hand-deliver absentee ballots, he announced on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program on August 28.

The same day, state elections director Heidi Burhans told county auditors in writing that “a no-contact delivery system” for absentee ballots will be allowed “at your office or in the immediate outside area of your office building.”

Pate still maintains county auditors cannot set up drop boxes “throughout the community,” a warning shot at Linn County Auditor Joel Miller.

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