IOWA — Abby Finkenauer is ineligible to appear on the Democratic primary ballot for the US Senate in June, a Polk County judge has ruled.

Finkenauer fell three signatures short of the requirement to appear on ballots, the judge says, after two Democrats on a state panel improperly allowed the signatures. The ruling can be appealed.

At issue are the signatures that candidates for any statewide office are required to submit from voters in a certain number of counties.

Candidates are allowed to submit more than the minimum number required. Three of the signatures from Allamakee and Cedar Counties that Finkenauer submitted were not dated. A state panel allowed the signatures after an initial challenge. That panel was made up of two Democrats – State Auditor Rob Sand and Attorney General Tom Miller – and one Republican – Secretary of State Paul Pate.

That ruling was challenged in court by two Iowa Republicans, Kim Schmett and Leanne Pellett. They argue the signatures should’ve been disallowed and the panel violated the law by approving them. A Polk County judge has agreed with them. In his ruling, Judge Scott Beattie wrote:

The Court takes no joy in this conclusion. 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. It is required to rule without consideration of the politics of the day. Here the Court has attempted to fulfill that role.

Judge Scott Beattie

The Finkenauer campaign has not publicly responded to the court ruling.

Finkenauer is running to challenge Senator Charles Grassley in November. Democrats Mike Franken and Glenn Hurst did both qualify for the primary ballot.