Breaking News - District 55 Update

Bergan leads by seven votes


by Chris DeBack


On Tuesday, Nov. 6, the waters got a little muddier in the race for Iowa House District 55. 

Incumbent Republican Michael Bergan leads Democratic challenger Kayla Koether by seven votes votes, 6,919 to 6,912, with Fayette and Winneshiek counties having officially canvassed their election results. Clayton County is set to canvass its election today (Wednesday, Nov. 14). 

Koether received more votes in Winneshiek County, 4,694 to 4,102, while Bergan had more votes in Fayette County, 2,235 to 1,651, officially. In Clayton County, Bergan unofficially holds a slim 15-vote lead, 582 to 567. 

While Clayton County canvasses its election today, this race will be marred with muddy water. Yesterday in Decorah, a packed house watched as the Winneshiek County Supervisors, joined by a member from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, canvassed the election in the Board of Supervisors office. 

According to Decorah Newspapers, controversy stems from 29 absentee ballots unable to be counted per Iowa Code because they were received after Election Day but not postmarked.

“There have been a lot of questions circulating through social media, emails, and phone calls about the status of absentee ballots that were received after Election Day but were not postmarked,” said Ben Steines, Winneshiek County Auditor. “Iowa Code 59.17(2) allows two methods for determining whether a late ballot was mailed before the election. One method is the ‘Intelligent Mail Barcode System.’ This is a special mail service that requires unique barcodes to be printed on the ballot return envelopes before they are sent to the voter. Winneshiek County does not have this system. The other method is for the ballot envelope to be ‘clearly postmarked’ on the day before the election or earlier. With confirmation from the Secretary of State’s office, no other verification method is allowed. This is not a choice of the Board of Supervisors, this is not the choice of the Auditor, this is state law. Therefore, any ballots received after Election Day that are not postmarked will not be included in the official results.”

The waters of this election got a little muddier when Fayette County Auditor Lori Moellers noted that some absentee ballots in Fayette County weren’t postmarked but were accidentally counted. Upon discovering the error, Moellers contacted the Secretary of State’s office and Attorney General’s office, which told her to go ahead with the official canvass as planned. 

According to Kevin Hall, Secretary of State Office communications director, it is impossible to remove votes that were already added to the total, as there is no way for the invalid ballots to be identified once added to the count. 

According to the Waterloo Courier, neither Koether or Bergan has expressed a plan to request a recount. Per Iowa Code, each candidate has three days after each official canvass to request a recount. The newspaper also noted that, according to John Hall, a campaign volunteer with Koether, Koether’s campaign is considering suing to have the non-postmarked ballots counted. 


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