After being sued in 2020 by former president Donald Trump and more restrictive election laws were passed in 2021, current Linn County Auditor Joel Miller decided to run for Iowa Secretary of State.
Miller said that the three biggest issues he would take on as secretary of state are disinformation surrounding election deniers, artificial deadlines and lack of information voters have when they go into the voting booth. In addition, Miller said the greatest threat to voter access is the dependence of vote by mail voters on the U.S. Postal Service for delivery times.
The 2021 election law states that the ballot has to arrive in the auditor’s office and be in the auditor’s hands by 8 p.m. on election night, while in prior elections ballots that were postmarked the day before the election but arrived late could be counted up until the canvas the following week. According to Miller, all these issues affect Iowa’s citizens’ access to voting.
According to Miller, a record number of voters participated in the 2020, with two-thirds voting by mail and still setting records. He said this proves that voting was easy and non-fraudulent during the pandemic, and therefore there was no reason to change the voting laws. That’s why he is running on the platform to “Make Voting Easy Again.”
Miller shared many ways he would work to make voting more accessible as Iowa Secretary of State.
Miller proposed automatically registering 17-year-olds to relieve the amount of administrative processing that happens now. In addition, he said he would like to implement permanent absentee ballots that other states have in place, which would make planning elections easier. Additional changes he proposed include creating a voter guide to keep citizens informed and allocating drop boxes by population and not by county.
“Those are just some changes I would lobby for regardless of who is in the legislature, but if there was a chance to reverse some of the anti-voter legislation that was passed in 2021, I would push for that as well,” Miller said.
After growing up on a dairy farm outside of Independence, Iowa, Miller served as a deputy sheriff and part-time police officer. He eventually joined the United States Army, earning the rank of sergeant.
Miller began his political career on the city council of Robins, Iowa, later becoming the city’s mayor. In 2007, Miller was elected to serve as Linn County Auditor and was reelected in 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020.
Miller said that his role as Linn County Auditor will help him as secretary of state because it will allow him to connect with the county auditors on a deeper level. After the change in 2021, the secretary of state can now give county auditors technical infractions, the consequences of which include a $10,000 fine, being removed from office for up to two years and/or having the office taken over for 60 days prior to an election. Miller believes that this is a cohesive power that is already causing a lot of County Auditors to leave their position, and he would like to counteract this power by reorganizing the secretary of state’s office through the creation of election support specialists, who would learn each County’s election system and ensure they are in compliance with the law.
Miller said he has done many things to make voting as easy as possible within his role as Linn County Auditor. Miller published absentee ballot request forms in newspapers as it is illegal for county auditors to send ballots without a specific request. He also keeps his office open and offers voting locations throughout all of early voting.
“I have been running local elections for over 15 years,” Miller said. “I know what is going on at the ground level. I talk with the election officials, I talk with voters, I try to make improvements on an election basis. Every election I try to make things better. I am on the ground, actually dealing with these issues. I think that would be a very valuable experience for the 99 county auditors to have in the secretary of state so that they knew one of their own was in there.”
Miller wants to encourage everyone to vote so that the elections are the most accurate they could possibly be and those elected are a true representation of the people’s wishes.
“I want everyone to vote. I don’t just want his voters or her voters or that party’s voters,” Miller said. “I want everyone to vote because when everyone votes, that means there is buy-in from all the people who vote and hopefully that means that they will accept the end result of the election. I am running to try and set the record straight, to increase trust in the system, to encourage participation, so we can once again be proud of our democracy.”