Supervisors Criticize Absentee Ballot Mailer

The Linn Country Auditor's office says it's still receiving sample ballots it recently sent out for informational purposes. So far hundreds of sample ballots have come in and some officials worry those people think they've voted when they have not.

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller presented this flag to the Board of Supervisors on January 6, 2016. Miller said the flag had flown with Air Force pilots on sorties in Iraq and Syria.

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller says his office recently sent out more than 90,000 sample ballots as a way to educate voters on who is running in November's election. The mailers also included an absentee ballot request form, an addressed envelope, and a letter noting "this ballot cannot be used for voting." Nevertheless, hundreds of people treated it like a real ballot anyway.

Some Linn County Supervisors were visibly upset at Wednesday morning's meeting as they discussed the rising number of filled out sample ballots continuing to be sent back to the Auditor's office.

"It is almost criminal to not try to address this issue with urgency," said Supervisor Stacey Walker.

No action was taken by the supervisors but many expressed concerns over how auditor Joel Miller is handling the situation.

"I'm just asking for whatever the number is," said Supervisor Ben Rogers.

The Auditor's office tells TV9 at last count, which they took on Monday, they've received a total of 750 sample ballots back. Those who sent in sample ballots, who provided a return address, have been sent back an additional mailer informing them they had not sent in a real ballot.

Supervisors invited Miller to the meeting to tell them where the current number of sample ballots received stands, however, Miller was a no show.

"I think one of the reasons the auditor did not show up today, he saw the likelihood of this discussion being political theater and decided to avoid that," said Supervisor John Harris.

Harris added he agreed with that assessment.

Miller said he also shared Harris's concerns, adding he has no plans of releasing the most recent numbers until after the election.

"I'm not going to," said Miller. "It's the wrong thing to focus on at this stage in the election. I'm not focused on it."

Some believe the steps the Auditor's office has taken do not go far enough. Earlier this week, in an unprecedented move, the party chairs of Linn County Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians issued a joint statement criticizing Miller for in their view "not taking sufficient action to contact the individuals" who sent in sample ballots.

"He needed to make clear that this was something that people should be aware of and once they started coming in to make a public announcement," said Chair of the Linn County Democrats, Bret Nilles.

Nilles echoed a similar sentiment at the meeting as it's his opinion the only way to ensure there is no more confusion among those who sent in sample ballots is to contact them personally with a phone call or if needed a home visit. Miller believes that is impractical.

"I think that's an unrealistic expectation," said Miller.

If you think you may have sent in a sample ballot by mistake, the Auditor's office says you can call them at 319-892-5300.

This Saturday at 5 p.m. is the deadline to request an absentee ballot.

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