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Recount reaffirms Wilson victory in Linn County statehouse race
Democrat won by 300 votes, but with 5-vote swing to rival
CEDAR RAPIDS — The outcome remains the same and the results changed little in a recount of a close Linn County statehouse race.
Democrat Elizabeth Wilson won by 300 votes following a four-day machine recount that concluded Friday of ballots cast in the Iowa House District 73 race, a five-vote swing from the unofficial results reported in the early morning hours following the Nov. 8 election.
A bipartisan, three-member board began recounting just shy of 45,000 ballots Tuesday in one of three legislative races that were being recounted statewide this week where Democrats won according to unofficial results.
Republican Susie Weinacht, a former Cedar Rapids City Council member, asked for a recount in the District 73 race, where she trailed Wilson, a former Linn-Mar school board member, by 305 votes for an open seat, according to unofficial results.
After reviewing ballots separated out by the machine as ineligible votes due to markings or other problems for voter intent, and after challenges by James Conklin of Marion, a former chair of the Linn County Republican Party Central Committee who was appointed by Weinacht, and concessions made by Linda Langston, a former Linn County supervisor appointed by Wilson, Weinacht picked up five additional votes.
In one case, a voter selected Weinacht but also left a mark in the oval for a write-in candidate, which the machine rejected as an overvote. In another, a voter filled in the oval for Wilson, but when uploading the overseas ballot it inadvertently cut off a portion of the ballot listing Weinacht as a candidate.
In that situation, Conklin argued the voter could have voted for Weinacht as well, in which case it would be rejected as overvote, which Langston conceded.
“These were scriveners errors decided in the recount room that could have gone either way,” Langston said. “I was happy to be a part of this painful process, because it demonstrated that the process works. … Are you going to have occasional human errors? Absolutely. What human process are we ever involved in that you don’t have those migrations one way or the other? … But, it pretty much affirmed what happened (on Election Day).”
Wilson echoed the sentiment.
“I think it reinforces the fact that we have a great system and checks and balances in place, and can be assured this was a fair and accurate election, which the recount proved,” Wilson said. “I’m not surprised, but it should spread confidence.”
Wilson said she is “ready to move forward” in her official capacity and eager “to hear from constituents and know what their priorities are … so I can represent them in the best way possible.”
She also thanked the volunteer three-member recount board.
Weinacht did not respond to a message seeking comment Friday afternoon after the recount was finished.
Because the race's margin was more than 1 percent of the total number of votes counted, Weinacht paid a $150 bond to the Iowa Secretary of State's Office.
The bond, however, does not cover the cost of county staff time to run tabulators and scanners, oversee the security of the ballots and otherwise facilitate the recount. That cost — which Matt Warfield, Linn County deputy commissioner of elections, estimated to be less than $1,000 — will be picked up by the county.
Conklin said he did not expect to find enough votes to overturn the results, but said a recount was needed to provide confidence in the race results and expose “process deviations” after mistakes were made by the Linn County Auditor’s Office on Election Day.
Those included erroneously leaving an election for a county supervisor off the ballot in one precinct and an error — since corrected — reporting early vote counts.
Conklin said he plans to issue a paper about his observations, saying the Auditor’s Office suffers from “incompetence and inexperience.” He noted were was a discrepancy of nine fewer ballots between the number of absentees ballots scanned on election night versus the number of ballots scanned during the recount.
“We don’t have enough information to know if they’re missing or if there was an additional count,” Warfield said. “We just don’t have any corroborating information. All we know is there a difference in the absentee ballots scanned on election night versus how many we scanned in this process by a total of nine.”
Conklin said he saw no evidence “that anybody is doing anything wrong … but there needs to be better types of training.”
Warfield said the recount was beneficial in educating candidates about the recount process and “identifying areas to improve our processes as well, not just on Election Day, but in communicating with the public and concerned citizens leading up to the election as well.”
“Because the biggest uphill struggle I have is restoring, basically, our customer confidence in the process,” he said. “And with all of the misinformation that’s floating around out there, I would classify it as an impossible order, but I think it’s one that has to be approached.”
The state’s canvass board, a collection of statewide officeholders that includes the governor and Iowa secretary of state, met Thursday to certify the results of the Nov. 8 elections in Iowa.
Because recounts were still being conducted in three counties — Linn, Scott and Cerro Gordo counties — the board will have to meet again to certify those results.
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