Elections

Miller wants former rival arrested over voting misconduct

'He would be better served by focusing on his own shortcomings,' opponent says

Joe Stutler
Joe Stutler
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County Auditor Joel Miller asked police Thursday to arrest a former campaign rival of his for what Miller describes as misconduct at a polling place.

Early voting began Oct. 13 in Linn County. Citing a state law, Miller said he had authority as auditor to order the arrest of Joe Stutler for abusing the process.

According to a letter issued by Miller, three people provided written statements that Stutler on Thursday “admitted he was filling out his ballot next to the men’s restroom, which is not in the polling place or in a voting booth.”

Further, Miller asserted, Stutler “was taking photos of his voted ballot instead of immediately returning it (to) a precinct election official.”

He alleged Stutler’s behavior constituted “Election Misconduct in the Second Degree” under Iowa Code.

Reached Thursday evening, Stutler, of Marion, said he hadn’t seen any warning that he couldn’t leave the polling place with his ballot.

“I had to go to the bathroom, so I walked down the hall, filled out my ballot and brought it back,” he said. “ ... If they had mailed it to my house, I would have done the same thing. That’s the whole idea of an absentee ballot, isn’t it?”

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Earlier this year, Stutler challenged Miller in the Democratic primary, noting that the auditor repeatedly rubbed the Linn County Board of Supervisors the wrong way. But Miller was re-elected by a wide margin.

During the campaign, Stutler claimed Miller improperly used county equipment for campaign purposes.

“So he doesn’t have a lot of room to grumble,” Stutler said. “He would be better served by focusing on his own shortcomings.”

Election officials this week warned Iowans that “ballot selfies” are illegal in the voting booth and suggested other ways voters could document the experience in social media posts.

In Iowa, phones are barred from voting booths. But photos of absentee ballots are allowed.

James Q. Lynch of The Gazette contributed to this report.

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