Government

Judge to rule on Linn County auditor's complaint

Joel Miller charges failure to provide election security

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (left) talks with Linn County Auditor Joel Miller in September 2016. Miller is now pur
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (left) talks with Linn County Auditor Joel Miller in September 2016. Miller is now pursuing a complaint against Pate’s office over election security. (The Gazette)

DES MOINES — An Iowa district judge said Friday he hopes to issue a swift decision on Linn County Auditor Joel Miller’s challenge of a state commission’s decision to shoot down his complaint over election security concerns.

Attorneys representing Miller and the state argued the merits of their positions before Judge David Porter during an online judicial review hearing focusing on the Voter Registration Commission’s decision to dismiss Miller’s allegations that Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate’s office has fallen short of federal election security requirements.

Miller’s attorney, James Larew, said the commission wrongly denied the county auditor a contested case hearing to present evidence whether lists of Iowa voters are secure, properly maintained and in compliance with federal guidelines.

David Ranscht, as assistant Iowa attorney general representing the commission, argued Miller lacked standing and that his complaint against Pate was property reviewed before its dismissal.

Last January, the commission voted 2-1 to reject Miller’s complaint alleging the secretary of state, as state commission of election, has not adequately safeguarded the state’s I-Voters registration database

Miller is a Democrat; Pate is a Republican.

The complaint Miller filed last year hinged on Pate’s office’s purported failure to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, which mandates state and local election officials provide “adequate technological security measures.”

Miller said he initiated his complaint after Pate’s office did not adequately address or “stonewalled” requests for information on the 14-year-old I-Voters database.

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Among his areas of concern were the absence of a two-step process for transferring voter records between counties and errors with the state’s list of felons ineligible to vote.

For his part, Pate contended his focus is on protecting the integrity of Iowa’s elections and characterized Miller’s action as “a frivolous complaint and waste of time” at taxpayers’ expense that was properly dismissed by the commission.

Officials in the Secretary of State’s Office say they have instituted “extensive security measures” to protect the I-Voters database, including tools such as the VoteShield program to monitor for anomalies in voter registration patterns.

Pate’s office also has initiated a process of rebuilding the state’s felon database, after news reports in late 2019 determined the list previously included more than two dozen eligible voters with misdemeanor convictions, plus former felons whose voting rights had been restored.

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