(Des Moines, Iowa) Iowa District Court Judge David May ruled against Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett’s challenge of the State Objection Panel’s decision to remove his name from the Iowa Republican Gubernatorial Primary ballot on June 5th. Corbett’s challenge was heard on Tuesday in Polk County.
Corbett’s campaign turned in less than 4,100 signatures, and Craig Robinson, a Republican activist, filed a formal challenge with the Iowa Secretary of State’s office after finding duplications and improperly filled out petitions. The State Objection Panel by a 2 to 1 vote upheld that challenge. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and State Auditor Mary Mosiman, both Republicans, voted in favor of upholding the challenge. Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, was opposed.
After the challenge, he was left with 3,9997 signatures, eight short of what was required. The panel did not allow signatures that the campaign said were mistakenly crossed out to count.
May wrote in the summary of his decision:
This case presents a question of law: Should a signature that has been stricken through (e.g., “
Paige Anderson”) be counted as a signature for purposes of Iowa Code section 43.20? The Court answers that question in the negative.
Based on that conclusion, the Court further concludes that Mr. Ron Corbett’s nomination papers did not meet the requirements of Iowa Code section 43.20. Therefore, the Section 43.24 Panel was correct in declining to certify the nomination of Mr. Corbett to the Republican primary ballot for the office of Governor. Mr. Corbett’s petition will be dismissed.
May also said that the law is clear on the number of signatures Corbett needs. “It is undisputed that this statutory language required Mr. Corbett to file 4,005 valid signatures,” he wrote.
May, in his decision, defined what a striking through a word means and how it is applied in the legal sense. He concluded, “By striking through—or crossing off—the signatures at issue, Mr. Corbett’s campaign deleted those signatures from his nomination papers. The Panel was correct, therefore, in refusing to count those signatures in Mr. Corbett’s favor.
“It should be emphasized that the standard employed here is objective. Striking a signature deletes the signature. This is true regardless of the motives behind the striking.”
“Mr. Corbett argues that the will of certain voters will be foiled if Mr. Corbett’s name does not appear on the primary ballot. Yet democracy requires courts to follow statutes that have been lawfully enacted by the people’s elected representatives,” May added.
In an interview with Simon Conway on WHO Radio after the State Objection Panel’s decision, Corbett said that he would not run as an independent if he was unable to be placed back on the ballot.
Update: Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate responds to the decision.
“I want to thank Judge David May for issuing his ruling in a timely manner and upholding the Objection Panel’s decision. My office is instructing county auditors to proceed in preparing all the ballots for the June 5 primary election,” Pate said. “My advice to all candidates in the future, as we recommend in the Candidate’s Guide, is to collect significantly more petition signatures than is required, make sure all your paperwork is filled out correctly, and submit your petitions early in the filing process.”
2nd Update: Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds responds to the decision.
“I want to thank Ron Corbett for his commitment and service to the people of Iowa. Now is the time for the Republican Party to unite and I look forward to leading our team to victory up and down the ballot this November. My campaign will focus on building a better Iowa so that every Iowan can live in a state with endless opportunity,” Reynolds said.
3rd Update: Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann said the party is putting their full support behind Reynolds.
“We’re putting our full support behind Governor Kim Reynolds’ campaign to continue moving Iowa forward. Under Governor Reynolds’ leadership, Iowa is the best state in the nation, and she has the leadership, vision, and resolve needed to make our state even better than it is today. There is no one in this race more committed to Iowans and their future than our Governor. In 2016, Republican unity led us to victory, and by uniting behind Governor Reynolds, we’re once again in a strong position for victory this November,” Kaufmann said.
“I want to commend former Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett for running a hard-fought campaign. His commitment to the conservative movement in Iowa has made our party stronger. We’re fortunate to have had a Republican at the helm of Iowa’s second largest city and for his service in the state legislature. We hope that Ron Corbett will remain an active voice for the party and look forward to working with him in the future,” he added.