Schmett v. State Objections Panel, 22-0618

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation973 N.W.2d 300
Parties Kim SCHMETT and Leanne Pellett, Petitioners-Appellees, v. STATE OBJECTIONS PANEL, Respondent-Appellant, and Abby for Iowa, Intervenor-Appellant.
Docket Number22-0618
Decision Date15 April 2022

973 N.W.2d 300

Kim SCHMETT and Leanne Pellett, Petitioners-Appellees,
v.
STATE OBJECTIONS PANEL, Respondent-Appellant,
and
Abby for Iowa, Intervenor-Appellant.

No. 22-0618

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Submitted April 13, 2022
Filed April 15, 2022


Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Samuel P. Langholz (argued), Assistant Solicitor General, Matthew L. Gannon, First Assistant Attorney General, and Sharon Wegner, Assistant Attorney General, for appellant State Objections Panel.

Gary Dickey (argued) of Dickey & Campbell Law Firm, PLC, Des Moines, Kate S. Keane, Alexander F. Atkins, and Sarah N. Mahmood, Elias Law Group, LLP, pro hac vice for intervenor-appellant Abby for Iowa.

Alan R. Ostergren (argued) of Alan R. Ostergren, PC, Des Moines, for appellees.

Per curiam. McDonald, J., filed an opinion concurring specially, in which Oxley, J., joined.

PER CURIAM.

973 N.W.2d 301

We must decide whether two missing dates and one incorrect date require a candidate for the U.S. Senate to be removed from the June 7, 2022 primary ballot. Without those signatures, the candidate does not qualify for the ballot; with them, she is just above the threshold.

Although including the date is a legal requirement when an eligible elector signs a nomination petition, see Iowa Code § 43.15(2) (2022), the legislature passed legislation last year to identify the specific circumstances when objections to petitions shall be sustained, see 2021 Iowa Acts ch. 147, § 9 (codified at Iowa Code § 43.24(2)(a ) (2022)). The legislature did not include missing or incorrect dates as one of the grounds for sustaining an objection to a petition. See id. We conclude that the recent legislation prevails. Accordingly, we sustain the State Objections Panel's decision to reject the objections as to those three signatures. This means that we reverse the carefully considered ruling of the district court and remand with directions to dismiss the objectors’ petition.

I. Facts and Procedural History.

Abby Finkenauer is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate from Iowa for the 2022 general election. On March 10, 2022, Finkenauer filed a nominating petition with the office of the Iowa Secretary of State. On March 15, two electors residing in Iowa, Kim Schmett and Leanne Pellett, filed objections to the petition. The objections raised a number of deficiencies in the petition, including a sheet with missing header information, duplicate signatures, incomplete addresses of signers, and missing or incorrect dates of signers. In light of these deficiencies, Schmett and Pellett urged that the petition lacked the required signatures from at least 100 eligible electors in at least nineteen different counties. See Iowa Code § 45.1(1).

On the afternoon of March 29, the State Objections Panel (the Panel) held a hearing on the objections. The Panel consisted of the secretary of state, the auditor of state, and the state attorney general. See id. § 43.24(3)(a ).1 The Panel sustained a number of objections but ultimately voted 2-1 to overrule objections to the signatures of three electors who had provided either no date or a clearly incorrect date.2

973 N.W.2d 302

One of these electors was from Allamakee County, and the other two were from Cedar County. Counting their signatures, Finkenauer had 100 signatures in Allamakee County and 101 in Cedar County, just above the statutory threshold for each of those counties.

Significantly, after the Panel had gone through Schmett and Pellett's other objections, Finkenauer's petition had met the 100-signature threshold in only seventeen other counties.3 Thus, if the objectors’ position as to dates had been sustained, Finkenauer would have failed to meet the requirements to be placed on the June 7 Democratic primary ballot.

Following the Panel's decision to allow Finkenauer's nomination petition, Schmett and Pellett filed a petition for judicial review in Polk County District Court on March 31 and sought expedited consideration.4 The district court granted that request. The court also granted a motion to intervene filed by Abby for Iowa, Finkenauer's official campaign committee.

After receiving briefs and hearing arguments from the parties on April 8, the district court worked through the weekend and issued a thorough eighteen-page decision on Sunday evening, April 10.5 The court did so to ensure that there would be adequate time and opportunity for review by this court. We appreciate the district court's courtesy and we trust that the parties do as well.

In its April 10 ruling, the district court first found that Schmett and Pellett had standing. It reasoned that Iowa Code section 43.24(1)(a ) allows objections from any Iowa elector eligible to vote in the general election regardless of party because it permits objections from "any person who would have the right to vote for the candidate for the office in question." (Emphasis added.)

Turning to the merits, the district court agreed with Schmett and Pellett that the three undated or improperly dated signatures should not have been counted. The district court found the language of Iowa Code section 43.15(2) controlling, which provides that "[e]ach signer shall add the signer's residential address, with street and number, if any, and the date of signing." (Emphasis added.) The court also explained why it disagreed with the Panel's view that "substantial compliance" with the petition requirements would be sufficient.

The Panel and Abby for Iowa appealed on April 11. We retained the appeal and, like the district court, granted expedited consideration.

II. Standard of Review.

In Chiodo v. Section 43.24 Panel , we assumed without deciding that the State Objections Panel was an administrative agency from which judicial review could be sought under Iowa Code chapter 17A. 846 N.W.2d 845, 848 n.1 (Iowa 2014). We did so because that is how the action was treated in the district court, the issue was not appealed, and...

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3 practice notes
  • State v. Davison, 20-0950
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 15, 2022
    ...164, 340 P.3d 703, 706–07 (2014) )). Our court today declines to follow that body of precedent, without citing a single decision to the 973 N.W.2d 300 contrary applying Apprendi to a victim restitution award.For these reasons, I am unable to join part III.B of the court's opinion. Christens......
  • Beverage v. Alcoa, Inc., 19-1852
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 17, 2022
    ...new statute supersedes prior common law. Difficult cases of statutory interpretation do exist. See Schmett v. State Objections Panel, 973 N.W.2d 300, 304 (Iowa 2022) (per curiam) ("Statutory interpretation is not like proving math theorems, and it is sometimes difficult to come up with a ne......
  • L.F. Noll v. Premiere Bus. Sols., 21-1226
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Iowa
    • August 31, 2022
    ...hand, was added in 1984. It is therefore the newest statute on the issue, which means it prevails. See Schmett v. State Objections Panel, 973 N.W.2d 300, 304 (Iowa 2022) ("If statutes enacted at the same or different sessions of the legislature are irreconcilable, the statute latest in date......
3 cases
  • State v. Davison, 20-0950
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 15, 2022
    ...164, 340 P.3d 703, 706–07 (2014) )). Our court today declines to follow that body of precedent, without citing a single decision to the 973 N.W.2d 300 contrary applying Apprendi to a victim restitution award.For these reasons, I am unable to join part III.B of the court's opinion. Christens......
  • Beverage v. Alcoa, Inc., 19-1852
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 17, 2022
    ...new statute supersedes prior common law. Difficult cases of statutory interpretation do exist. See Schmett v. State Objections Panel, 973 N.W.2d 300, 304 (Iowa 2022) (per curiam) ("Statutory interpretation is not like proving math theorems, and it is sometimes difficult to come up with a ne......
  • L.F. Noll v. Premiere Bus. Sols., 21-1226
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Iowa
    • August 31, 2022
    ...hand, was added in 1984. It is therefore the newest statute on the issue, which means it prevails. See Schmett v. State Objections Panel, 973 N.W.2d 300, 304 (Iowa 2022) ("If statutes enacted at the same or different sessions of the legislature are irreconcilable, the statute latest in date......

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