Iowa Supreme Court Greenlights Leading Democrat To Appear On Ballot, Saving Bid Against Grassley

Abby Finkenauer. Getty Images/TPM Illustration

The heavily conservative Iowa Supreme Court preserved Democratic candidate Abby Finkenauer’s campaign Friday, allowing three disputed signatures to count towards her qualification to make the primary ballot. 

The signatures in question had missing or incorrect dates next to them. The court concluded that because the legislature had recently updated the language as to what would disqualify a signature, and didn’t include date issues in that criteria, the problems weren’t enough to invalidate the signatures.

“Statutory interpretation is not like proving math theorems, and it is sometimes difficult to come up with a neat answer that is intellectually satisfying,” the majority wrote. “In the end, we believe we must be guided by the legislature’s last word on the subject.”

All of the justices concurred in the decision, except for Justices Christopher McDonald and Dana Oxley, who concurred in the judgment only.

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It’s a relief for the former congresswoman, whose uphill battle against Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) got steeper almost at once, with a Republican challenge forcing her into legal battles just to participate in the Democratic primary. 

Two Republican voters initially identified a whole slew of signatures collected by the Finkenauer campaign that they claimed were problematic, though the State Objection Panel winnowed the bunch down to three that had a missing or incorrect date. The three-person panel voted along party lines to count the signatures, allowing Finkenauer to just barely meet the requirement of 100 signatures from 19 counties. 

The voters appealed, and a district court disagreed with the state panel, invalidating the signatures and knocking Finkenauer off the ballot. 

The Finkenauer campaign then appealed that decision, landing the case before the state Supreme Court. 

Her campaign argued that the Republican voters did not have standing to bring the case in the first place, since they have no personal injury and wouldn’t vote in the Democratic primary. The voters’ lawyer responded, going back and forth with the justices about the occasionally ambiguous statutory text, saying that Iowa law requires the date to be present and observing that the campaign should have simply collected more signatures to give itself a buffer.

The two other Democrats competing for the nomination are Navy veteran Mike Franken and physician Glenn Hurst.

Read the opinion here:

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