CEDAR RAPIDS — A state panel that hears objections to candidate filings on Tuesday dismissed all but one complaint on the grounds that candidates, including four 4th District Republicans, had demonstrated “substantial compliance” with requirements for being included on primary election ballots.
The Objections Panel’s dismissal of a challenge to the candidacy of Steve Everly of Knoxville means there will be a five-way race for the Republican nomination in Iowa’s 2nd District.
The challenger, Marshan Roth, said by improperly filling out his petitions, Everly may have confused those signing his petitions. An attorney representing Roth said that in a similar case, the panel as well as a district court and the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the challenge.
However, the panel of Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, Attorney General Tom Miller and Auditor Rob Sand rejected the objection.
An objection to the nomination papers filed by 2nd District Democratic candidate Rita Hart was withdrawn before the meeting.
The panel did uphold an objection in the case of Jordan Omstead of Lamoni, who planned to run in the GOP primary against Rep. Joel Fry of Osceola. It was agreed that he was ineligible because he was not a registered Republican.
Most of the two-hour telephonic meeting dealt with challenges to U.S. Rep. Steve King and three of his GOP challengers — State Sen. Randy Feenstra, Bret Richards and Jeremy Taylor. Cynthia Hanson of Sioux City said their petitions were invalid because the information about the “circulator” — the person circulating the petitions — was incorrect.
Based on “sweeping reforms” proposed by Pate, she said, the Legislature changed the rules for circulators to provide more oversight and eliminate the potential for fraud and misrepresentation.
“I call on you to take seriously the role you have today of setting precedent as to whether the laws passed by the General Assembly will be enforced,” Hanson said in seeking to have those candidates removed from the primary election ballot. “You alone are charged with determining legislative intent.”
In several cases, Hanson said, the names of the circulators on the nomination papers were not those of the people who actually gathered the signatures, but campaign staff members. The intent of the Legislature, she said, was for the circulators to verify the signatures.
However, the panel members agreed with Ryan Koopsman, who represented Feenstra, that “the intent of the Legislature is gauged by what the Legislature said.”
“This panel and Iowa courts have repeatedly held that statutes governing nomination papers should be liberally construed in favor of ballot access,” Koopsman said.
Attorney General Miller agreed that Iowa law doesn’t specifically say that signatures have to be secured in the presence of the circulator. States that want that “requirement of presence” specify it in their laws.
In the end, the panel dismissed the challenges, agreeing with Miller that “consistent with our Pole Star that, when there is doubt, we allow people on the ballot and allow the public to make choices between candidates.”
The panel also disallowed a number of challenges from Hanson regarding duplicate names, incorrect information regarding the office being sought and the date of the primary election. It also dismissed a challenge based on Feenstra using “Randy” on his filing forms, but using “Randall” on a Federal Election Commission form.
Hanson did not indicate whether she would pursue her objections in district court.
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