Government

Ballots without postmarks won't be counted in Iowa House race separated by nine votes

Cedar Rapids residents vote early at the Public Service Center on Thursday, May 31, 2018. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids residents vote early at the Public Service Center on Thursday, May 31, 2018. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)

WATERLOO — A total of 31 mail-in ballots in Winneshiek County won’t be counted in the Iowa House District 55 race because they weren’t postmarked.

Rep. Michael Bergan leads the race against Democrat Kayla Koether by nine votes, according to the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.

“We have ballots that don’t get counted every year because they aren’t postmarked,” said Ben Steines, Winneshiek County auditor.

Fayette County Auditor Lori Moeller also said she gets ballots every election that aren’t postmarked.

“There’s always ballots you can’t count,” she said.

The post office doesn’t automatically postmark ballots, Steines said. The ballots in question were processed in Waterloo.

“Any ballots received after Election Day that are not postmarked will not be included in the official results,” Steines said.

Voters can’t put an absentee ballot into a mailbox and assume it will be postmarked, Steines said.

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“The law is very clear. An absentee ballot, in order to be counted, must be received by the county auditor by 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Election Day, or postmarked the day before the election and received by noon on the Monday following,” said Dawn Williams, director of elections at the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. “That postmark has to be legible.”

Not all mail gets postmarked, and the envelopes sent to voters containing ballots bear a warning that postmarks are not guaranteed, Williams said.

A recount can be requested by the candidates up to three business days after counties canvass election results. That deadline will be 5 p.m. Friday in Winneshiek and Fayette counties, which canvassed Tuesday, and 5 p.m. Monday in Clayton County, which will canvass Wednesday.

Neither candidate has said they will request a recount.

Koether’s campaign is considering a lawsuit to have the non-postmarked ballots counted, said John Hall, a volunteer with Kayla Koether’s campaign.

Bergan said he has faith in the process.

“I’m confident in our electoral system and how it’s managed,” he said. “We’ll get a result once the count is in.”

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