Postal scan shows 29 ballots timely mailed in House race

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A northeast Iowa county election official says U.S. Postal Service officials have scanned postal bar codes on 33 ballots that have not been counted in an Iowa House race and found 29 were mailed in time to be counted.

A Democratic candidate the Iowa House district 55 seat who is trailing by nine votes won a court ruling Monday that gave her the right to determine whether the absentee ballots were mailed on time. Further court action will now take place to decide whether they will be counted.

Counting the ballots could flip the results of the race where incumbent Republican Michael Bergan leads Democrat Kayla Koether (KAY-tuhr) by just nine votes in the three-county district.

Koether sued election officials who refused to count the ballots because they lacked a postmark. The ballots contain a postal bar code that Koether says can prove the mailing date. State and county election officials say Iowa law doesn't allow postal bar codes to be used to authenticate ballots but a judge ordered them scanned.

Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines says in court documents that a scan revealed 29 ballots were mailed on Nov. 5, the state-mandated deadline. One was mailed Nov. 6 and no information was obtained for three.

Koether told TV9 there will be more hearings in the future to talk about whether or not those ballots will be opened. She said the people who voted did so in good faith, and it's her campaign's positions that those votes should be counted.

"It's incredibly important that when you cast your ballot in good faith and it gets in the mail, that we're able to make sure those voices are heard because everyone's voices should be heard," she said. "Here in rural Iowa, it's just the case that more people are going to need to vote by mail because they don't have easy access to a voting site."

The Iowa secretary of state has already certified Michael Bergan as the winner of House District 55. The office declined to comment.