Former Democratic state Sen. Rita Hart will request a full recount of each precinct in all 24 counties in Iowa's 2nd Congressional District. The step is the latest in a series of dramatic developments in the race, which remains too close to call and is considered one of the closest in the country.
According to the unofficial tally from the Iowa secretary of state, Hart’s competitor, Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, leads by just 47 votes.
Human error by election workers in two different counties flipped the lead during the tallying process. Hart’s campaign says a full recount is needed to alleviate any doubt about the results, which remain unofficial until the state canvass on Nov. 30.
“Over the last several days, multiple consequential errors have materialized in this race that have serious implications for the district’s future representation. Given the errors found in Jasper and Lucas counties at the eleventh hour, we are moving forward today with requests for a complete recount of each precinct in the Second Congressional District to make sure all results have been reported accurately. Anything less will perpetuate doubt around this election,” said Hart Campaign Manager Zach Meunier in a written statement.
Miller-Meeks had held a narrow lead before election workers in Jasper County detected error in their data entry process in one precinct, but Hart took the lead after the error was corrected.
Then Hart’s edge gave way after election workers in Lucas County realized they had reported test results from one precinct, instead of actual results.
Jasper County has conducted a county-wide administrative recount and a hand audit of the precinct in question. Lucas County began their administrative recount Thursday morning, with an audit of the precinct in question slated for Thursday afternoon.
On Monday and Tuesday, all 24 counties completed their certification and canvass of votes. At the end of that process, Miller-Meeks maintained a lead of 47 votes in the unofficial tally. Miller-Meeks claimed victory again Tuesday night, though the results remain preliminary and further recounts were all but certain. Then Thursday morning, that confirmation came.
Under state law, because the margin is so narrow Hart’s campaign will not have to post a bond to request the recounts. Each request is made on a county by county basis.
In each county, a recount board will oversee the process, made up of one member selected by each candidate and a third member that the two appointees jointly agree on. If they cannot agree on a third member, the chief judge of the judicial district will appoint one.
It’s up to the recount board to determine how they’ll conduct the recount: by hand, by machine or a combination of both.
Recounts in Iowa generally don’t significantly change the results, according to Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker, who has taught classes on recount procedure to the state’s county auditors.
“What we typically see in a recount, we don't see a lot of movement off of the original canvass numbers,” he told IPR before the announcement of the districtwide recount request.
But with a margin of just 47 votes and recounts across all 24 counties, it would not take many adjustments to have a significant impact on the outcome.
“I don’t anticipate a recount would change very much just because optical scan ballots are pretty reliable,” said University of Iowa election law professor Derek Muller. “So I think that would be the expectation. But with margins this narrow, one never knows.”
Recount boards have 18 days after the county canvass to conduct the recount. If there are any changes, the county will amend its canvassed results to reflect that. If the recount board doesn’t complete the work, the results of the county canvass will stand.
The state will not declare an official winner in the race until the state canvass of votes on Nov. 30. The Associated Press has also announced it will not call the race until then.