Democrat Joel Miller running for secretary of state

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.”

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Democrat Eric Van Lancker running for secretary of state

Iowa Democrats have their first confirmed candidate for secretary of state in 2022. Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker announced on September 15 that he will seek the office, saying in a news release that he has a “passion for helping my neighbors vote, backed up by experience and an understanding of how to run elections the right way.”

Alluding to Republican incumbent Paul Pate, Van Lancker said in the statement,

“Iowans have never needed a voting advocate more than they do at this moment […]”

“Voters pay for the election system and they deserve to have leadership that builds confidence in the system instead of undermining it for short-term political points,” Van Lancker said. “It is long past time for a County Auditor to return to the Secretary of State’s office. Iowa voters deserve a state commissioner of elections who knows what it is like to be on the front lines of an election and has respect and knowledge of the work precinct election officials perform during an election.”

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Secretary of State's office wrongly inactivated many Iowa voters

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office moved thousands of Iowans who did not vote in the 2020 general election to “inactive” status this month. But according to Linn County Auditor Joel Miller, a recent “No Activity” mailing from the state went to at least three groups of voters who should not have received it. Consequently, state officials “incorrectly inactivated” hundreds of voters in Linn County alone.

Staff in the Secretary of State’s office did not reply to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries on April 23, nor did they respond to a “Notice of Technical Infraction and Letter of Instruction Miller sent to Secretary of State Paul Pate the previous day.

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Iowa Republicans unveil assault on early voting

UPDATE: The Iowa Senate and House approved a revised version of this bill on February 23 and 24. Original post follows.

Republican-controlled states “are increasingly not ‘laboratories of democracy,’ but ‘laboratories of democratic backsliding,’” political scientist Jake Grumbach noted in a new article by Perry Bacon Jr. for FiveThirtyEight.com.

Look no further than the Iowa legislature, where House and Senate Republicans unveiled a wide-ranging election bill on February 16. The 37-page legislation would make it much harder for Iowans to obtain and cast absentee ballots, either using the mail or voting early in person.

While House Republicans worked with Democrats to remove many voter suppression provisions from election bills the Iowa Senate had approved in 2019 and 2020, House State Government Committee chair Bobby Kaufmann is now on board with every piece of this year’s attempt to make it harder for Iowans to vote.

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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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