DECORAH – In a rare move, the results of the Iowa House District 55 election — a nine-vote discrepancy that hinges on whether ballots without postmarks can be counted — are being contested with the Iowa House of Representatives.

Democrat Kayla Koether, who lost to Republican Michael Bergan by nine votes, is contesting the election results of House District 55 after she asked the court to order the Winneshiek County Auditor’s Office to count the ballots. They hadn’t been counted because they arrived without postmarks.

Koether will present her notice of intent to contest to the Iowa House of Representatives, which a judge advised was her only course of action.

“There are at least 29 Northeast Iowans who cast their ballots on time, in good faith and followed the law, yet elections officials have refused to count their votes. We will follow Judge Beattie’s recommended course of action and stand with Northeast Iowa voters to protect their voting rights in an election contest,” said Koether in a press release. “Ensuring that all legal votes are counted is foundational to our democracy and to our faith in our elections. We will always fight to maintain the rights not only of these voters, but of all Iowans.”

A district court judge threw out a court action brought over 33 uncounted absentee ballots in the House District 55 race, ruling Thursday the courts lacked jurisdiction to order the counting because the law spells out a process to challenge the vote to the Iowa House of Representatives.

Officials said earlier this could be the first time in state history a candidate has made such a request.

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Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann released a statement saying it was “time to move on.”

“In court, they identified that they lack sufficient facts for standing to challenge the contest before the House of Representatives,” Kaufmann said. “The election has been certified, the court dismissed their case, it’s time to move on.”

Judge Scott Beattie earlier took steps to preserve encoded postal information on the mystery ballot envelopes, but said it was not up to his court to have them counted.

“The grounds asserted by the Plaintiff to count the ballots falls squarely within the parameters of Iowa Code 57.1, and as a result, this matter should be left to the legislative branch,” Beattie wrote in his ruling. “By Constitution and statute, the power of the Legislature over election contests for legislative seats is clearly spelled out. ... That power is constitutionally given to the legislative branch, and this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction as a result.”

Earlier this month, Beattie ordered the unread ballots in question be handed over to postal authorities to determine what information could be gleaned from barcode information printed on the envelopes and to determine when they were mailed.

According to the Thursday night ruling, the Winneshiek auditor reported 29 were deposited to the postal service Nov. 5 and one was submitted Nov. 6. Postal officials didn’t provide information for three envelopes.

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