Finkenauer appeals ballot disqualification to Iowa Supreme Court

District judge found the U.S. Senate candidate lacked enough valid signatures

By: - April 11, 2022 11:12 am

Abby Finkenauer did not collect enough signatures to appear on the Democratic primary ballot in June, a district court ruled Sunday. (Screen shot from Finkenauer campaign video)

U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer is appealing to the Iowa Supreme Court after a district judge found her campaign lacked enough signatures to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot.

“The Court takes no joy in this conclusion,” Polk County District Court Judge Scott Beattie wrote in his decision, released late Sunday. “This Court should not be in the position to make a difference in an election, and Ms. Finkenauer and her supporters should have a chance to advance her candidacy. However, this Court’s job is to sit as a referee and apply the law without passion or prejudice.”

To qualify for the primary ballot, Finkenauer was required to collect at least 3,500 signatures, including at least 100 from 19 different counties. In March, a state panel ruled that she did so by a razor-thin margin, with just barely enough signatures to qualify in several counties. 

The court’s decision came down to three signatures that were undated or had been dated incorrectly. Beattie reversed the panel’s decision and determined those signatures were invalid under Iowa law, and therefore could not be counted toward Finkenauer’s petition. Without those three names, Finkenauer received over 100 signatures in just 17 counties – not enough for the ballot.

Finkenauer said in a statement Monday the decision was a Republican attack, noting she had submitted over 5,000 signatures overall. 

“This misguided, midnight ruling is an outrageous and partisan gift to the Washington Republicans who orchestrated this meritless legal action,” Finkenauer said.

The Iowa Democratic Party also framed the case as a partisan ploy.

“Iowa Republicans are clearly worried about how vulnerable Chuck Grassley is this fall,” IDP Chair Ross Wilburn said in a statement. “That’s why they’ve turned a nonpartisan process into a shameful political game.”

The Republican Party of Iowa criticized Finkenauer for failing to gather enough signatures and lambasted the Democratic party for “questioning the integrity of our election system”

“The severe lack of enthusiasm behind Iowa Democrats has real consequences and the first victim to fall is Abby Finkenauer,” said Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann. “Not qualifying for the ballot is a complete and utter embarrassment.”

The Finkenauer campaign and the state panel appealed the court’s decision Monday afternoon. The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on Wednesday.

“We refuse to back down in the face of these partisan attacks,” Finkenauer said in a statement. “We are confident that we have met every requirement to be on the ballot, and we will not stop fighting back against this meritless attack that seeks to silence the voices of tens of thousands of Iowans.”

Finkenauer faces a tight timeline to make it back on the ballot. The secretary of state must start sending ballots to overseas and military voters 45 days before the June 7 primary, on April 23.


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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.