# Leanne Pellett



What the Supreme Court said—and didn't say—in Finkenauer case

The Iowa Supreme Court surprised many in the political and legal worlds on April 15 with a unanimous judgment reinstating U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer to the Democratic primary ballot.

Five justices resolved an apparent contradiction between two parts of Iowa’s election law by saying an incorrect or missing date is not a valid reason for not counting a signature on a candidate’s petition. They reversed a Polk County District Court, which days earlier reached the opposite conclusion: that an undated signature cannot be counted, and therefore Finkenauer did not qualify for the ballot.

Two justices concurred with the outcome of reversing the lower court but did not explain their reasoning.

The result was a big loss for Republican plaintiffs who challenged the State Objection Panel’s decision to let three disputed signatures on Finkenauer’s petitions stand. It’s also an embarrassment for Republican legislators who moved last year to limit the panel’s discretion.

By deciding this case on narrow grounds, the Iowa Supreme Court left some big legal questions to be adjudicated another election year.

Continue Reading...

Judge rules Abby Finkenauer should be off primary ballot

A Polk County District Court has handed a big win to Republicans seeking to knock Abby Finkenauer off the Democratic primary ballot for U.S. Senate.

Judge Scott Beattie ruled on April 10 that the State Objection Panel used the wrong legal standard when it counted signatures with missing or incorrect dates. Consequently, the court found, Finkenauer’s campaign “has failed to submit at least 100 signatures from at least 19 counties” as required by Iowa law.

Continue Reading...

What is—and isn't—in lawsuit against panel ruling on Finkenauer

Two Republican voters filed suit on March 31 challenging the State Objection Panel’s decision to allow U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer to remain on the Democratic primary ballot.

Attorney Alan Ostergren, who has represented Republican candidates and committees in several high-profile election cases, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Kim Schmett and Leanne Pellett. They charge that the panel, comprised of Secretary of State Paul Pate, Attorney General Tom Miller, and State Auditor Rob Sand, should have disallowed signatures on Finkenauer’s nominating petitions where voters did not provide the correct date. Doing so would have brought the Democratic front-runner’s campaign below the threshold of 100 signatures in at least nineteen counties.

Sand and Miller voted to allow those signatures to stand; Pate would have sustained the objection to them.

The lawsuit also charges that Sand and Miller should have recused themselves from considering the objection to Finkenauer’s petitions. If the auditor and attorney general had recused, as Ostergren had requested during the panel’s March 29 meeting, Republican statewide officials would have replaced them on the panel, and would surely have ruled against letting Finkenauer compete for the Democratic nomination.

However, the plaintiffs did not raise another argument that Ostergren had argued at length when asking the panel to invalidate signatures on Finkenauer’s petitions, and those filed by two other candidates.

Continue Reading...
View More...