116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Did anyone notice how my little poll post yesterday on double-voting in Linn County turned into an actual debate between County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden and Auditor Joel Miller?
It did, in the comments section. Here are their comments, in case you missed 'em:
First, from Vander Sanden:
This poll question could have been phrased better. Obviously, those who break the law should be prosecuted. But do we charge someone who has made an honest mistake with a felony offense? This problem could be easily solved by the Auditor exercising a little more vigilance at the polling place. The Auditor should stop handing out ballots to people who his own records show have already cast an absentee ballot. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and it is within the power of the auditor to prevent this problem by limiting voters to one ballot each.
I conceded that the poll question, while aimed at the five cases at issue, was perhaps too general.
Those who criticize poll workers and their training should remember they also have a civic duty to work at the polls. Mr Vander Sanden, you are not on the ballot this year. Maybe you should volunteer to be a poll worker in November?
I am not offering criticism of poll workers. However I do take issue with your insistence that our office file felony charges against people who have committed no crime. I also find it distressing that you think it would be more “cost-effective” to charge these voters, who have never been in trouble with the law and made an honest mistake, rather than make the effort to remind poll workers not to hand out ballots to those who have already cast an absentee ballot. Don't create a mess at the polls and then complain that the justice system isn't doing a good enough job cleaning it up to your satisfaction.
I bet Miller won't let that go:
Mr. Vander Sanden,
As Mr. Dorman indicated above, everyone is going to claim “honest mistake”. I bet the felons who were convicted /plead claimed “honest mistake”.
We already train/advise poll workers not to issue ballots to those voters who have voted absentee ballots. Obviously, based upon the public debate we are having right now, I/we will reiterate the importance of NOT issuing ballots to those who voted via absentee.
But to say that someone voting absentee at home and then coming to the polls on election day, and requesting a ballot, voting a ballot, and depositing the ballot in the voting machine is not willful is far fetched and naive.
On Tuesday, you told the Board of Supervisors that you exercised your discretion to not charge anyone with felony election misconduct; however, your predecessor did not charge the ineligible felon voters with a felony and, according to Gravelle's story, one plead to a misdemeanor. Obviously, your predecessor used discretion and sought lesser charges for which you cannot bring yourself to do.
As for your comment that I have created a “mess” at the polls, please provide your proof. Your comment is an insult to every poll worker who has ever worked the polls in Linn County.
I oversee the elections process, but once the polls open, the chairpersons of the precincts are in-charge of what occurs in each precinct, and they and their fellow precinct election officials are the only ones who can validate the outcome of the results in their individual precincts – not me or any of my regular staff.
No matter how much you dislike me, writing that I “created a mess at the polls” is the most irresponsible statement a county attorney could make. Shame on you! And you better hope that every election contest in Linn County is by a big margin … else we will be hearing your quote over and over again … as we recount precinct after precinct.
Further, your comment was not very cost-effective. You likely single-handedly just drove up the cost of elections in Linn County. Congratulations!
Mr. Vander Sanden?
Those who have been convicted of a felony offense are going to have a hard time convincing a jury they did not know they were a convicted felon. There is a world of difference between a convicted felon trying to vote and a person who has no experience voting absentee and is worried they didn't mail their ballot in time or it wasn't counted because they didn't get the written verification their vote was counted. Then there is the person who thought their absentee ballot did not contain all the races or issues and went to their polling place to fill out a more complete ballot. When she discovered the ballots were identical, she tried to return the ballot to the poll worker only to be told to insert it into the ballot counter anyway. You want her to be charged with a felony offense? Have you even talked to any of these elderly voters that you want charged with a felony offense? The sheriff's office did and it was crystal clear to them these people made an honest mistake and had no intent to have their vote counted twice. They were contrite and apologetic for the trouble they had caused. It would be a travesty to charge these people with a crime. I'm gratified that you have changed your position about addressing this issue with those who work the polls. I don't see where it would increase the costs of elections to remind poll workers to check their records which show who has already cast an absentee ballot. To insist the justice system treat as criminal certain conduct that can be easily prevented at the polling place shows an utter lack of good judgment on your part. Do your job properly and let my office concentrate our efforts on the real felons.
I have to say, this is a first on the old blog. More please.