Democrat sues to count Winneshiek County absentee ballots

Republican leads by nine votes.

Posted: Nov 29, 2018 7:39 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Democratic candidate in a northeast Iowa House district, trailing by just nine votes, filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to force election officials to count 33 ballots left uncounted because they lack a postmark.

Kayla Koether is seeking a temporary injunction in Polk County District Court to stop Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate from certifying the House District 55 election results on Monday.

Incumbent Republican Michael Bergan leads with 6,924 votes to Koether's 6,915.

Koether also is asking the court to require Pate and Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines to confirm with the U.S. Postal Service that its barcode information on the ballots can prove they were mailed by the state mandated deadline.

State law says ballots received by mail must be clearly postmarked "or bear an intelligent mail barcode traceable to a date of entry into the federal mail system" not later than the day before the election and received by the commissioner not later than noon on the Monday following the election.

The ballots in question bear the bar codes on the outside envelope but like many ballots mailed in Iowa do not have a postmark stamped by the agency.

"Every legal vote should be counted," Koether said in a statement provided by Iowa House Democrats. "We believe that these 33 ballots were mailed on time in accordance with the law, and every effort must be made to count these additional votes. Our citizens voted in good faith, and their ballots should be counted in good faith."

It's common in many counties not to count absentee mailed ballots received after election day if they lack a postmark and post offices frequently do not postmark absentee ballot envelopes, Steines said.

"This is a frequent issue and it has been for years. County auditors have reported to the legislature that we can't rely on postmarks because the post office doesn't regularly postmark everything," he said.

Steines said the intelligent mail barcode referred to in the Iowa law is a code that a county election official would place on the ballot envelope before it's sent to the voter. It is not the one the postal service stamps on an envelope, he said. Only a few Iowa counties use their own barcodes because of the administrative burden and cost, he said.

Koether's lawsuit said Iowa law does not define intelligent mail barcode.

She asks a judge to order Steines and Pate to use the postal barcodes on the ballots to determine when they were mailed and if they meet the legal deadline, to count the ballots.

She asks for an immediate hearing and one was set for 1:30 p.m. Friday.

District 55 includes Clayton, Fayette, Winneshiek counties in northwest Iowa.

Koether said Fayette County officials counted at least 12 ballots that did not contain stamp canceling postmarks and were not check mail dates.

"The 33 voters in Winneshiek County have the same right to have their vote counted," she said.

Pate's spokesman said his office had no immediate comment.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Reported Deaths: 1731
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin19873842
Ramsey7827270
Dakota4610106
Anoka3841115
Stearns292820
Washington222748
Olmsted179123
Nobles17777
Scott163422
Mower11112
Rice10468
Blue Earth9465
Wright9185
Carver8993
Clay79440
Sherburne75310
Kandiyohi7141
St. Louis62120
Todd4302
Lyon4263
Watonwan3671
Freeborn3611
Nicollet35613
Steele3562
Benton3253
Winona26616
Beltrami2640
Crow Wing25214
Le Sueur2301
McLeod2240
Martin2105
Chisago2091
Goodhue2059
Otter Tail2044
Cottonwood1780
Becker1621
Pipestone1589
Polk1564
Waseca1561
Carlton1470
Itasca14612
Douglas1442
Isanti1370
Unassigned13546
Dodge1310
Pine1290
Murray1251
Chippewa1171
Morrison941
Wabasha930
Brown922
Faribault920
Meeker872
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Jackson790
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Renville675
Lincoln610
Grant563
Swift561
Roseau530
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Pope480
Houston450
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Norman400
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Redwood370
Hubbard360
Wilkin353
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Wadena280
Mahnomen271
Big Stone250
Red Lake240
Lake220
Stevens180
Clearwater140
Traverse130
Lac qui Parle80
Cook50
Lake of the Woods40
Kittson30

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 50230

Reported Deaths: 955
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10612210
Woodbury377052
Black Hawk320066
Linn245689
Johnson213820
Dallas193235
Buena Vista180012
Scott176815
Dubuque173431
Marshall145627
Pottawattamie136729
Story118915
Wapello93435
Muscatine86048
Webster8498
Crawford7393
Cerro Gordo65617
Sioux6533
Warren5861
Tama55729
Jasper48427
Wright4821
Plymouth47912
Clinton4344
Dickinson3844
Louisa37814
Washington30510
Boone2723
Franklin25512
Hamilton2551
Bremer2337
Clarke2063
Clay2021
Carroll2012
Des Moines1992
Emmet1934
Shelby1881
Hardin1860
Marion1830
Floyd1673
Benton1621
Jackson1601
Poweshiek1608
Allamakee1584
Mahaska14217
Henry1404
Guthrie1385
Buchanan1351
Cedar1351
Jones1352
Butler1312
Lee1294
Madison1282
Hancock1242
Humboldt1241
Delaware1231
Lyon1232
Pocahontas1212
Harrison1131
Cherokee1101
Clayton1093
Winneshiek1021
Page1000
Taylor1000
Iowa981
Kossuth970
Mills941
Monona920
Winnebago920
Palo Alto910
Fayette900
Calhoun872
Cass871
Jefferson870
Sac860
Osceola850
Grundy831
Union811
Mitchell800
Monroe758
Lucas734
Worth680
Davis612
Montgomery614
Chickasaw600
Appanoose523
Howard510
Fremont450
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Adair380
Van Buren381
Ida330
Audubon291
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