Lawsuit claims uncounted votes could change election outcome

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WINNESHIEK COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) – The race for the Iowa House of Representatives District 55 is close and now one candidate has filed a lawsuit claiming not all ballots were counted.

Democrat candidate Kayla Koether filed a lawsuit in Polk County District Court against Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and Winneshiek County Auditor Benjamin Steines to delay the official declaration of a winner in the race for District 55.

“Iowa code allows for ballots to be counted that are postmarked or verified by an intelligent mail bar code that they were put in the mail on time,” said Koether.

The 8-page petition claims 33 votes that came in by mail the following day or within the allowed umbrella were not counted in Winneshiek County.

With a margin of just nine votes in favor of Republican incumbent Michael Bergan, Koether said Iowa’s Secretary of State needs to count those ballots.

After an official election recount, Bergan had 6,924 votes over Koether’s 6,915 votes.

“Originally the Secretary of State said that he would get it verified as to whether the ballots were on time, but now 33 ballots aren’t counted and the Secretary of State hasn’t verified, has not has that bar code read to let us known whether they were in the mail legally and on time,” she said.

KWWL met one-on-one with Koether in Decorah Friday. She said it’s a matter of maintaining integrity in the voting system.

“We’re talking about 33 votes that were cast in good faith and if put in the mail legally, as we believe they were, should be counted,” Koether said, “We want that verified so those folks can have their votes counted.”

The suit also alleges several votes in Fayette County had a bar code, but lacked a stamp cancelling postmark. The documents say that post mark is not required in the case of ballots as they are often too thick to fit through the machine that places postmark.

Koether said it’s not an issue of winning, but of getting all the votes in.

“If you’re going to do something, you do it right or don’t do it at all. It’s really important here that this is a much bigger issue than the outcome of this election and who comes out ahead\,” she said, “It’s really about making sure the law is followed so that people who cast ballots legalling and in good faith get their ballots counted.”

A hearing of the petition was held Friday afternoon, but KWWL has not heard an outcome. If the courts rule in Koether’s favor, a declaration by the Secretary of State would be postponed until those ballots were counted.

They must have a decision by Monday.

KWWL reached out to Representative Michael Bergan for comment, but he said he had no comment at the time. He is being afforded the opportunity for a response once the final decision comes out.

A copy of the lawsuit can be read here.

Collin Dorsey

Collin Dorsey

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