Democratic candidate Abby Finkenauer knocked off the Senate primary ballot in Iowa
Abby Finkenauer did not collect enough signatures to appear on the Democratic primary ballot in June, a district court ruled Sunday. (Screenshot from Finkenauer campaign video)

Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer did not gather enough valid signatures to appear on the Democratic primary ballot, a district court ruled late Sunday.

“The Court takes no joy in this conclusion,” Polk County District Court Judge Scott Beattie wrote in his decision. “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.”

To qualify for the primary ballot, Finkenauer was required to collect at least 3,500 signatures, including at least 100 from 19 different counties. In March, a state panel ruled that she did so by a razor-thin margin, with just barely enough signatures to qualify in several counties.

The court’s decision came down to three signatures that were undated or had been dated incorrectly. Beattie reversed the panel’s decision and determined those signatures were invalid under Iowa law, and therefore could not be counted toward Finkenauer’s petition. Without those three names, Finkenauer received over 100 signatures in just 17 counties – not enough for the ballot.

Finkenauer said in a statement Monday the decision was a Republican attack, noting she had submitted over 5,000 signatures overall.

“This misguided, midnight ruling is an outrageous and partisan gift to the Washington Republicans who orchestrated this meritless legal action,” Finkenauer said. “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.”

The Republican Party of Iowa criticized Finkenauer and the Iowa Democratic Party in a Monday statement.

“The severe lack of enthusiasm behind Iowa Democrats has real consequences and the first victim to fall is Abby Finkenauer,” said Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann. “Not qualifying for the ballot is a complete and utter embarrassment.”

The Finkenauer campaign has a tight window to appeal the decision. The secretary of state must start sending ballots to overseas and military voters 45 days before the June 7 primary, on April 23. That means the decision must be finalized well before then, allowing the state enough time to print and assemble the ballots.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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