Three things I learned watching Iowa House Republicans subvert democracy

The first Iowa House floor votes of 2019 are in the books, and they played out exactly as you’d expect. On two straight party-line votes, 53 Republicans rejected a Democratic effort to allow legally cast absentee ballots to be counted, then dismissed Kayla Koether’s contest of the House district 55 election result.

The chamber’s January 28 debate was enlightening. If you have a few hours to spare, I recommend watching the videos of the afternoon and evening sessions on the legislative website.

My takeaways:

Continue Reading...

Iowa House Republicans are making a mistake

Every Iowa House Republican will likely vote on January 28 to dismiss Democrat Kayla Koether’s contest of the House district 55 election. She trails State Representative Michael Bergan by nine votes according to certified results, but 29 absentee ballots that voters in Winneshiek County mailed on time remain uncounted.

Although Republicans on a special House election contest committee insist “there exists no legal authority to open and count the twenty-nine ballots in question,” they are wrong about the law. Dismissing the contest without allowing Koether to call witnesses, take depositions, or have the ballots opened will open the door to judicial review.

It’s also terrible politics.

Continue Reading...

Who's who in the Iowa House for 2019

The Iowa House opened its 2019 session today with 54 Republicans and 46 Democrats. State Representative Michael Bergan was sworn in for a second term, even though his Democratic opponent Kayla Koether is contesting the outcome. A special committee will consider her complaint in the coming weeks.

The new state representatives include 66 men and 34 women (24 Democrats and ten Republicans, record numbers for both parties).

Four African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, and Phyllis Thede) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 96 lawmakers are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian-American member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the state Senate following the 2008 election. Democratic State Representative Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the lower chamber. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted significant changes since last year.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Smiths (both Democrats), while the other 98 members have different surnames. As for popular first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Thomas (two go by Tom), three Johns and two Jons, and three men each named Gary and Brian. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz) and two men each named Bruce, Chris, Jeff, Michael (one goes by Mike), and Charles (a Chuck and a Charlie).

Continue Reading...

Iowa House committee will hear Koether's election contest (updated)

Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer confirmed on January 9 that a special committee will consider Kayla Koether’s contest of the House district 55 election. According to the certified results, Republican State Representative Michael Bergan leads Koether by nine votes, 6,924 to 6,915. Koether is fighting to have 29 uncounted absentee ballots from Winneshiek County opened and tallied, in light of evidence from the U.S. Postal Service that voters mailed those ballots by the legal deadline.

Continue Reading...

The ominous footnote in judge's ruling on contested Iowa House race

Democratic candidate Kayla Koether filed notice late last week that she is contesting the Iowa House district 55 election. According to the certified result following a recount, Republican State Representative Michael Bergan received 6,924 votes to 6,915 for Koether. However, 29 absentee ballots from Winneshiek County were never tallied, even though the U.S. Postal Service confirmed that they were mailed on or before the legal deadline.

Koether had hoped Polk County District Court Judge Scott Beattie would order the disputed ballots to be opened and counted. But on December 20 he dismissed her lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds, saying the state constitution and Iowa Code give the legislative branch–not the courts–power to rule on contests of elections for state House or Senate seats.

A few thoughts on what should happen next, what will happen instead, and what might have happened if Democrats had pursued a different legal strategy.

Continue Reading...

Absentee ballots wrongly excluded in Iowa House district 55 (updated)

“Every vote should be counted,” Democratic challenger Kayla Koether said in a statement after a recount showed her trailing Republican State Representative Michael Bergan by nine votes in Iowa House district 55. Her comments suggest Koether is preparing litigation to force the counting of 33 absentee ballots, which were mailed on time but not counted because the envelopes lacked a certain kind of postmark.

If Koether does not file suit before election results are certified on December 3, one or more of the disenfranchised Winneshiek County voters should take legal action. Election officials did not properly interpret Iowa statute when they excluded those ballots.

Continue Reading...
View More...