Polk County District Court Judge Scott Beattie is requiring Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines to work with the United State Postal Service to read barcode data on 33 ballot envelopes that were mailed in House District 55 race.
Kayla Koether, the Democratic candidate for House District 55, took legal action Thursday to request the 33 absentee ballots received after the Nov. 6 general election without postmarks be counted. Iowa law only allows the ballots to be counted if they are properly postmarked before Election Day.
“This ruling is good news for the 33 Iowans who cast their ballots in good faith and deserve to have their votes counted. We’re pleased that the judge agreed that getting more information from the US Post Office on the uncounted ballots is essential. This is just the next step in making certain that every legal vote gets counted,” said Koether, who filed the lawsuit against Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines in Polk County District Court.
Last Tuesday, recounts Koether requested in Clayton and Winneshiek counties were completed. After the recounts, Koether trails Republican Michael Bergan by nine votes out of nearly 14,000 votes cast.
The recount board did not count 33 absentee ballots with no postmarks that arrived at the Winneshiek County Auditor’s Office after Election Day, including 29 that came in on Nov. 7, the day after the election, according to a news release from the Iowa House Democrats.
The emergency petition filed in Polk County District Court asked Steines and Pate use the USPS barcode information on the ballots to determine when the ballots were placed in the mail and count those votes that were legally cast.
Koether sought a temporary injunction to stop Pate from certifying the House District 55 election results, which was scheduled for Monday.
Beattie denied that request, but Koether will have until Christmas to challenge the outcome of the race. The appeal could go to the Legislature, which state attorneys say would be a first in Iowa’s history, the Des Moines Register reported Monday morning. Officials have until Wednesday to collect the barcode information, and it must be given to the court and attorneys by Friday.