Rita Hart Takes Lead; Jasper County To Recount All Votes

Democrat Rita Hart on Friday morning pulled ahead of Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, according to updated unofficial results from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

On election night, only 282 votes separated the candidates, with Miller-Meeks leading Hart 196,769 votes to 196,487. By Friday morning, Hart had taken the lead, 196,603 to 196,441, an advantage of 162 votes. The Associated Press has not declared a winner in the Southeast Iowa district due to the razor-thin margin there.

The change in results is not due to new votes being counted, but from an error in reporting on election night out of Jasper County.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrot held a press conference Friday morning in Newton to announce a “hand-count audit of unofficial election results” in the Clear Creek-Poweshiek precinct and a “countywide administrative recount of all results” in Jasper County.

At the press conference, Pate and Parrot said a “human data entry error” in the auditor’s office “resulted in some results being over-reported” in the Clear Creek-Poweshiek precinct.

“Obviously on election night the Jasper County Auditor’s Office made an election results reporting error,” Parrot said in a statement released by the secretary of state’s office. “I credit the system of checks and balances that Iowa has that gives auditors time before the county supervisors canvass the vote to catch errors and issues that may have happened on Election Day.”

The Newton Daily News reported on Thursday the Jasper County auditor’s office “noticed they were 10 absentee ballots short” on election night of what they expected to have, and there were issues with the vote tabulating machine.

Election officials said the precinct-level audit and countywide recount will happen Saturday and will be completed ahead of the Jasper County canvass of ballots on Tuesday afternoon.

Unofficial results currently show Miller-Meeks leading Hart in Jasper County 11,180 to 8,096, a difference of 3,084 votes. On election night, Miller-Meeks had a lead in the county of 3,491 votes, or 11,553 to 8,062.

Once counties certify their election results — canvasses must be complete by Nov. 10 — campaigns can request a recount of individual counties and precincts. The deadline for campaigns to request a recount is 5 p.m. Nov. 13.

According to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, at an election night part on Tuesday, Miller-Meeks claimed victory “after midnight Wednesday” and referred to herself as “the new congresswoman from the 2nd Congressional District of Iowa.”

And on Friday, a statement from the Miller-Meeks campaign questioned “the transparency concerning the machine irregularities” in Jasper County “and the auditor’s own claims that human error in the tabulation process arose after results were reported.”

“We have demanded additional information because those unexplained discrepancies have the potential to alter the election outcome,” the campaign said. “We expect to receive that information immediately.”

For the Hart campaign, Zach Meunier said “Iowans’ voices must be heard and their votes accurately counted.”

“It is thus crucial that county auditors ensure all results are accurate,” said Meunier, the campaign manager. “We understand that the county auditor in Jasper County is undertaking an administrative review to ensure that the vote totals from that county — which have been verified by Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate and the Jasper County auditor and which show Rita Hart leading by 162 votes — are accurate. We are confidant by the end of this process that Rita Hart will be the next congresswoman from Iowa’s Second District.”

Miller-Meeks and Hart are vying for an open seat currently held by retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack. In Iowa’s other U.S. House races, Republican Randy Feenstra defeated Democrat J.D. Scholten in the 4th District; 3rd District Congresswoman Cindy Axne was reelected; and Republican Ashley Hinson unseated Democratic Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer in the 1st District.

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By Elizabeth Meyer
Posted 11/6/20

Iowa Starting Line is an independently-owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.

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