Republican legislators in Iowa voted last week to reject 29 absentee mail ballots cast during the 2018 midterm election, The Washington Post reported, after the Democratic candidate in a northeast Iowa House district challenged the result of the contest, which the Republican candidate won by just nine votes.
This was the first contested election to go before the Legislature in 27 years, The Post reported.
At issue was the manner in which the ballots were determined to have been received by the deadline:
The mailed absentee ballots were confirmed by a U.S. Postal Service scan of a barcode on the envelopes as having been sent to election officials on time, but House Republicans insist those barcodes are not allowed under state law to be used to validate ballots.
Iowa law says mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked to confirm they were mailed by the deadline one day before an election. The 29 ballots had no postmark.
In 2016, legislators updated the law to reflect that mail ballots are not always postmarked anymore — a fact the U.S. Postal Service has acknowledged — allowing for “a specific code called an intelligent mail barcode” to be used in authenticating ballot submissions when a postmark is absent.
However, GOP lawmakers insisted in this case that the type of barcode available for the 29 ballots was not the correct type under the law.
House Republicans argued a postal routing barcode is not an intelligent mail barcode as defined in Iowa law and cannot be used to validate ballots, and therefore the 29 votes must be rejected.
“This isn’t comfortable. This isn’t pleasant and we don’t change the rules in the middle of the contest. That’s why we have to follow the rule of law in this case,” said GOP Rep. Steve Holt of Denison.
Republican Rep. Michael Bergan won the election by a mere nine votes, and those 29 ballots from Winneshiek County could have altered the contest’s results, The Post noted.
Bergan’s opponent, Democrat Kayla Koether, filed an election challenge, which brought the issue before the House for a decision. She questioned Republicans’ rationale and said they “have the authority to interpret the law in a way that allows them to count the ballots of voters who did everything right.”
“They are making a choice here about how to interpret the law and whether they will do so in a way that includes these 29 voters who want their votes to be counted or not,” she said. “They can follow the rule of law and count these ballots.”
Koether said she and some of the voters may file a lawsuit.