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The Iowa Supreme Court has issued a ruling in a case involving a former congresswoman who was removed from the state’s Democratic Senate primary ballot last week after failing to meet the state’s signature requirement.
In a unanimous decision, the court tossed a lower court’s ruling on Sunday that former Rep. Abby Finkenauer failed to comply with a requirement that candidates gather 100 signatures from supporters in at least 19 counties.
According to a county district judge, three signatures submitted by Finkenauer’s team were invalid, putting her below the legal threshold in at least two counties.
Now, she will become the most likely Democratic candidate to face off in the fall against incumbent Sen. Charles Grassley, a long-serving Republican who is favored to win.
“BREAKING: The Iowa Supreme Court rules Democratic Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer qualifies for the primary ballot, rejecting a lower court decision, & allowing her to campaign for the nomination and the chance to face longtime Republican Sen. Charles Grassley,” Iowa journalist David Amelotti tweeted in response to the ruling.
BREAKING: The Iowa Supreme Court rules Democratic Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer qualifies for the primary ballot, rejecting a lower court decision, & allowing her to campaign for the nomination and the chance to face longtime Republican Sen. Charles Grassley. @iowasnewsnow
— David Amelotti (@DavidAmelottiTV) April 15, 2022
“The Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous decision today has affirmed that we are right on the law, and that we will be on the ballot for U.S. Senate. This is a moment for all advocates for democracy – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – to celebrate the enduring strength of our democratic process and a reminder to never take it for granted,” Finkenauer noted in a statement.
Two state GOP officials moved to have Finkenauer taken off of the Democratic primary ballot after three ballot petition signatures included incorrect dates. However, the state Supreme Court ruled, “The legislature did not include missing or incorrect dates as one of the grounds for sustaining an objection to a petition.”
“The ruling late Sunday night, which reverses a state panel’s decision, is a major setback for Finkenauer, who is competing for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley. Finkenauer, who has been widely considered the frontrunner in the Democratic primary, said Monday she would appeal the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court, casting it as ‘deeply partisan,’” the Des Moines Register reported following the lower court’s ruling last week.
Polk County District Judge Scott Beattie threw out three signatures that dropped Finkenauer below a requirement that candidates submit 100 signatures from 19 counties. Finkenauer appealed the ruling ahead of the April 15 deadline set by the Iowa Secretary of State. The primary will be held on June 7 and absentee voting will begin on May 18.
NEW: Former congresswoman Abby Finkenauer cannot appear on Iowa’s June 7 Democrat primary ballot for U.S. Senate. A judge ruled yesterday she failed to meet the legal signature requirement. Appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court expected.
— Jeff Stein (@iowapolitics) April 11, 2022
An Iowa court judge has ruled that Democrat Abby Finkenauer cannot appear on the June primary ballot for U.S. Senate, potentially knocking off the candidate considered by many to be the party’s best chance to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley.https://t.co/sY2nSl7hvE
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 11, 2022
The State Objections Panel, consisting of two Democrats and one Republican, had initially sided with Finkenauer. Beattie sided with the Republican challengers, however, in a ruling that the state Supreme Court described as “carefully considered.”
“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 justices wrote.