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Iowa Supreme Court ruling puts Finkenauer back on the Senate primary ballot

U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer walks out of the Iowa Judicial building after listening to oral arguments on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, in Des Moines.
Kelsey Kremer
Des Moines Register pool photo
U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer, holding hands with her husband Daniel Wasta, leaves the Iowa Supreme Court after listening to oral arguments on Wednesday in Des Moines.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that former Democratic Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer can appear on the primary ballot for the U.S. Senate. The decision rejects a challenge from two Republicans over signatures gathered by the campaign.

Finkenauer, who represented Iowa’s 1st District for one term in the U.S. House, is considered perhaps the leading contender to challenge Republican Chuck Grassley in November. Her campaign was put into question, however, because of three signatures on candidate petitions where the date given was either missing or incorrect.

Without those signatures, Finkenauer would have failed to qualify in enough counties to run for the Senate nomination.

Iowa election law requires a person signing a candidate petition to write the date. It also gives specific reasons for a signature to be rejected. The justices were influenced by the fact that an incorrect date isn’t one of them.

In a unanimous opinion, the court pointed to recent changes in Iowa election procedures. “The legislature did not include missing or incorrect dates as one of the grounds for sustaining an objection to a petition,” they wrote. Since the date of a signature is not mentioned in that part of the law, the court reasoned that it must not be as important to lawmakers as other parts of the petition, such as the address.

In a tweet following the ruling, Finkenauer called the challenge to her campaign an attempt to “undermine ballot access and our election process.”

The ruling comes just in time for her to appear on absentee ballots, which were set to be printed early next week according to a brief filed by state attorneys.

Iowa GOP chairperson Jeff Kauffman said even though the petition challenge failed in court, it raised questions about strength of Finkenauer’s candidacy.

“Iowans saw everything they needed to see in Finkenauer’s effort to get on the ballot,” Kaufmann said in a statement. “For someone who claims to have a strong campaign, she could barely reach the minimum requirement for petition signatures.”

Finkenauer is one of three candidates in the Democratic Senate primary. Retired Navy admiral Mike Franken of Sioux City and Glenn Hurst, a physician from Minden, are also vying to challenge Republican Chuck Grassley in November.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa