Mike Bergan

Vote counting has concluded in the closest legislative race in the state. The incumbent Republican won by just seven votes, but there still could be a recount in the northeast Iowa district.

All three counties in Iowa House District 55 have canvassed the election results. The totals incumbent Republican Mike Bergan of Dorchester with 6,919 votes and Democratic challenger Kayla Koether of Decorah with 6,912 votes.

Thirty-two ballots in Winneshiek County were not counted in the canvass. Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Stienes says those ballots were received in the mail after Election Day and did not have a postmark.

State law requires absentee ballots sent through the mail to have postmarks to be counted and a bipartisan election commission unanimously decided to not allow those ballots to be counted. Stienes says it’s time for the legislature to address this issue.

Kayla Koether

“County auditors have been collecting data for the last 6-8 years about how many ballots we receive without postmarks,” Stienes said. “This is not an anomaly. This happens at almost every election. We have ballots that cannot be counted after the election because there was no postmark.”

In Fayette County, a dozen ballots that did not have a postmark were improperly counted, but election officials have not said whether any of those ballots impacted this race.

Koether, the Democrat who finished seven votes behind the Republican in the northeast Iowa House district, has not decided yet whether to ask for a recount. Recounts must be asked for in Winneshiek and Fayette Counties by Friday and Clayton County by Monday.

An interesting side note: there were 222 under votes in this race in the district, meaning voters selected neither candidate.

(By Darin Svenson, KDEC, Decorah)