House Committee Will Decide If 29 Eastern Iowa Absentee Ballots Count

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DES MOINES, Iowa–  The election totals have already been certified but the results in one Statehouse district are being disputed.

“I don’t feel cheated. This is not about me. The people who have been cheated are the voters themselves,” Democrat Kayla Koether said.

Koether requested a hearing to contest the results of November’s House District 55 race in Northeast Iowa.

“It doesn’t matter if I win or not, they will change the vote count and their voices should be heard and counted,” Koether said.

Koether lost the race to Republican incumbent Michael Bergen by nine votes but says not all votes were counted.

“To me these are not just 29 ballots. These are 29 Northeast Iowans we know we cast their vote on time and in good faith and it’s the cornerstone of our Democracy,” Koether said.

The 29 absentee ballots were among 33 received after election day. The post office determined they were mailed before the election deadline. However, the ballots lacked a postmark, which is required under state law.

“These voters followed the law but now the government is knowingly and intentionally disenfranchising these 29 voters at that point when we deny voters the right to have their ballots counted,” said Koether’s attorney Shayla McCormally.

The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t postmark all absentee ballot envelopes. But some counties rely on the bar-code for a date stamp, though Winneshiek is not one of them.

Representative Michael Bergen’s attorney says that is the problem.

“We cannot refer to the bar-code that the challenger is requesting to sue here it would be completely unfair to change the meaning of that phrase and apply it differently,” Matt McDermott attorney for Rep. Michael Bergan  said.

The House committee is asking for more information. There’s no timeline about when a decision will be made.

Both Representative Bergen and the Secretary of State’s office declined an on-camera interview.

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