Update: The five-member panel chaired by State Representative Steven Holt (R-Denison) and includes State Representatives Jon Jacobsen (R-Council Bluffs), Brian Meyer (D-Des Moines), Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley), and Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton). The committee first met on Monday, January 14th, and meets again on Wednesday, January 16 to hear from the candidates’ attorneys. They are expected to vote today. Their report will then go to the full House to be debated and voted upon.
Originial: Seven votes were all that separated State Representative Michael Bergan (R-Dorchester) from his Democratic challenger Kayla Koether in Iowa House District 55, and the election results are still contested. Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) on Wednesday announced that the Iowa House will hear from both sides and then decide the outcome.
After the election, Koether requested a recount in the N Iowa district that comprises parts of Clayton, Fayette, and Winneshiek counties.
After the official canvass of that district, Bergan edged Koether out 50.00 percent (6919) to 49.95 percent (6912). Koether won the Winneshiek County precincts by 592 votes. Bergan won the precincts in Clayton and Fayette counties by 15 and 604 votes respectively.
Recounts were requested in Clayton and Winneshiek counties only.
Bipartisan three-member boards also conducted vote recounts in Clayton and Winneshiek counties for the House District 55 race. State Representative Michael Bergan (R-Dorchester) increased his margin of victory to nine votes over Democrat Kayla Koether, bringing the final total to 6,924 for Bergan and 6,915 for Koether.
The State Canvassing Board certified the results on December 3rd. Board Chairman Scott Beattie denied Koether’s request for a delay as 29 absentee ballots that did not have a postmark showing where they came from were not counted.
“Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines followed the law. Iowa Code is clear on this matter. Absentee ballots that arrive after Election Day and do not contain postmarks, nor a county-specific Intelligent Mail Barcode, are not eligible to be counted,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said last month.
“The Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) tracing program for absentee ballots was introduced to the Iowa Legislature by my office and signed into law in 2016. We were one of the first states in the nation to authorize of this method for tracking voted absentee ballots. IMb tracing is a system in which the county auditor prints a unique IM barcode on each return absentee envelope, which allows tracking through the U.S. postal service. Iowa law authorizes IMb tracing as an option for counties, but it is not a requirement. The system is in use in six Iowa counties. Winneshiek County is not one of those,” he added.
Upmeyer on Wednesday said she would appoint an election contest committee made up of both Democrat and Republican legislators that will hear from both sides, collect information, and then report to the full House who will then decide.
Chapters 57 and 59 of the Iowa Code describe the general process for individuals to contest the results of an election, but there is not much recent precedent. Iowa House Republican spokesperson Colin Tadlock told Caffeinated Thoughts that most recent elections he found to be resolved in this matter was an Iowa Senate contest in 1993 and then Iowa House contest in 1975.
Members of the committee will be appointed on Monday, January 14 and an organizational meeting will be held later that day. Committee meetings will be on the legislative website.
Until the election results are resolved, Bergan will be sworn in and continue to represent the district.