Blanks on Nominating Petition Keep IA Gubernatorial Candidate Off Ballot

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: TOPIC.

Jonathan Narcisse v. Matt Schultz. IA election law

Joathan Narcisse was running for Governor of Iowa and sought to have his name placed on the ballot for the 2014 democratic primary. The provisions for appearing on the Iowa Ballot are found inIowa Code 43.20. Narcisse submitted his affidavit of candidacy to the Secretary of State, along with petitions signed by voters in multiple Iowa Counties. He submitted these prior to the deadline of March 15, 2014. By letter dated March 15, the Secretary of State informed Narcisse that the petition had been rejected, since it did not include the minimum number of voters in ten counties. This was because some of the signatures appeared on pages that did not contain the name of the office.

Narcisse sought review in Polk County District Court. He argued that he had substantially complied with the statute. The District Court, Judge Michael D. Huppert, denied review on March 27, 2014.

The District Court denied the petition, holding that there was not substantial compliance. Instead, the court held that this was a case of "a complete lack of compliance," since there was a complete failure of the pages in question to identify the office that Narcisse was seeking. The court held that the petitions "must convey information sufficient to allow [the] court to conclude that electors would automatically know that he or she was nominating a candidate for the office of governor," and that there was no such information on the pages in question.

Trial court's ruling (external link).

Narcisse then sought expedited review by the Iowa Supreme Court. The Supreme Court noted that the ballots needed to be at the printer in many counties by March 31, and thus held that the case was appropriate for expedited review.

However, on the merits, the Supreme Court, with no further opinion, affirmed the decision of the Polk County District Court.

Narcisse was represented on the unsuccessful appeal by Des Moines attorneys Alfredo G. Parrish and Adam C. Witosky. The Supreme Court's decision in the case will not be published.

No. 14-09512 (Iowa Mar. 31, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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