At the heart of our democracy is the principle every vote, lawfully cast, should be counted. As the Iowa House reconvenes, it is considering an election contest filed by Kayla Koether, who trails Michael Bergan by nine votes in the race for House District 55. The representatives have a choice: Will they count 29 absentee ballots mailed before Election Day, or throw them out?
Under Iowa law, absentee ballots mailed up to the day before the election and received by noon the following Monday must be counted.
There’s no dispute the 29 absentee ballots contained a traceable bar code showing they were mailed on time. Yet the Secretary of State says these ballots shouldn’t be counted because they don’t contain a bar code generated by the Intelligent Mail Barcode Tracing system, a program only six of Iowa’s 99 counties use.
The lack of a specific type of bar code was no fault of the 29 Winneshiek County voters who have been disenfranchised. In Fayette County, which is part of House District 55, the auditor accepted 12 absentee ballots after Election Day with the same bar code as the 29 absentee ballots rejected in Winneshiek. Since we cannot unring the bell of the counted Fayette votes, the solution is simple: Count the 29 Winneshiek votes.
This is not a partisan issue. This is about preserving the ideals of our democracy and ensuring every vote is counted. There is no conceivable interest served by throwing out these votes. The Iowa House should count the votes.