Two candidates are vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for secretary of state — that’s Iowa’s top election official, but neither are out on the campaign trail these days. That’s because both are local election officials, overseeing thousands of early votes, training poll workers and preparing for voting at precincts in their counties for next Tuesday’s primary election.

Eric Van Lancker has been Clinton County Auditor for the past 12 years. “My favorite job is still helping my neighbors vote and trusting in the outcome,” Van Lancker told Radio Iowa. “I don’t ever ask my neighbors if they’re Republican or Democrat or independent or Libertarian. If they’re interested in voting, I want to make sure that they’re able to vote.”

Joel Miller has been Linn County Auditor since 2007. “We need to encourage every voter to vote, not just my voters or your voters or their voters,” Miller said during a Radio Iowa interview. “My goal is to get every voter to participate in elections.”

Both candidates fault Republican legislators for passing a law in early 2021 that shortened the period for early voting. Van Lancker pointed to Iowa’s 2020 election. “We had one of the most successful General Elections we ever had and we counted the most absentee ballots we ever had,” Van Lancker said, “The Republicans still did very well in Iowa that year, but a few weeks later they were back in the legislature making it harder for Iowans to vote by absentee.”

Miller was one of three county auditors that Republicans successfully sued for sending voters 2020 absentee ballot request forms with information on the forms filled out. Miller said he did it because he wants to make voting easy again.

“For some reason the Republican-controlled legislature, with no push-back from the current secretary of state, decided to make vote-by-mail much more inconvenient,” Miller said.

The winner of this primary will face Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican who is seeking a fourth term.