Democratic Senate Candidate Abby Finkenauer Kicked Off Ballot Over Signature Requirement

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Former Rep. Abby Finkenauer will be removed from the Iowa Democratic Senate primary ballot after failing to meet the state’s signature requirement, a state judge ruled Sunday.

Finkenauer was considered a likely favorite to face Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, although most polls show the long-time incumbent with a comfortable advantage. Polk County District Judge Scott Beattie threw out three signatures that dropped Finkenauer below a requirement that candidates submit 100 signatures from 19 counties. Although Finkenauer may appeal the ruling, the Iowa Secretary of State has said she must do so before April 15, the Des Moines Register reported.

The primary will be held June 7, although absentee voting begins on May 18.

“Our campaign submitted more than 5,000 signatures, 1,500 more signatures than are required to qualify for the ballot. We are confident that we have met the requirements to be on the ballot,” the Finkenauer campaign said in a statement.

“We are exploring all of our options to fight back hard against this meritless partisan attack, and to ensure that the voices of Iowans will be heard at the ballot box.”

Two Republican officials brought a lawsuit against Finkenauer’s signature submissions in late March after the Iowa State Objection Panel approved 100 signatures in one county and 101 signatures in two others. The officials argued that three signatures should be excluded after the signatories incorrectly entered the date on the petition. The panel, made up of two Democrats and one Republican, had rejected the attempt to remove Finkenauer from the ballot, finding that her campaign “substantially complied” with signature requirements.

However, Beattie ruled that the panel incorrectly reviewed the signatures and that they could not employ such a loose interpretation of the law. (RELATED: Tennessee Legislature Takes Aim At Former Trump Official’s House Run. Are Their Actions Legal?)

“No appellate court in Iowa has adopted ‘substantial compliance’ in voting matters which could support the Panel’s interpretation,” he wrote. “Interpreting the statute as including only ‘substantial compliance’ renders Iowa Code §43.15 meaningless.”

“The Court takes no joy in this conclusion. This Court should not be in the position to make a difference in an election, and Ms. Finkenauer and her supporters should have a chance to advance her candidacy. However, this Court’s job is to sit as a referee and apply the law without passion or prejudice,” Beattie added.

Finkenauer represented Iowa’s First District from 2019-2021. She lost her re-election bid to Republican Ashley Hinson in one of the most competitive races of the cycle.