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Second error in Linn elections caught as state results continue to be counted
State orders review of absentee ballot reporting in Scott County
DES MOINES — For the second time this election week, state elections officials spent Thursday dealing with an error in Linn County as the statewide counting of Iowans’ votes from Tuesday’s election continues with another recount ordered.
In addition to a recalculation of Linn County’s vote totals due to an error in the reporting of its early vote counts, partial recounts also were conducted Thursday in Warren and Des Moines counties. The partial recounts were ordered by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate after irregularities were discovered Tuesday night. In addition, on Thursday afternoon, Pate ordered an administrative recount of absentee ballots in Scott County.
“Thanks to the checks and balances we have in place, we discovered an error in the tabulation of Scott County's absentee ballot numbers,” he said on Twitter. “I'm calling on the county to conduct an administrative recount ASAP. We will ensure the integrity of Iowa's elections is maintained.”
All election results in Iowa are considered unofficial until they are reviewed and certified by the state’s canvassing board.
Based on the count so far — after the tallies in Linn, Warren and Des Moines counties were corrected — State Auditor Rob Sand appears to have won re-election for a second, four-year term. According to the unofficial results, Sand, a Democrat, defeated Republican challenger Todd Halbur by 2,614 votes out of nearly 1.2 million cast.
Since Sand’s apparent victory margin is less than 1 percent, Halbur by state law may request a recount without being required to post a bond. Halbur said Thursday he will ask for a recount.
“Over the course of the days (since Tuesday’s election) we have seen human error, technical errors, and maybe some even blatant, egregious errors that have happened to our votes across the state,” Halbur said. “After the recount, I believe myself and the voters of Iowa will feel confident in these results. And I’ll accept the results of whatever that recount shows. … I just feel like there needs to be some additional validation and confidence in these votes after what we’ve seen in several different counties.”
If the result holds, Sand will be the only Iowa Democrat to win a statewide race in this election. Iowa Republicans won the campaigns for U.S. Senate, governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Secretary of Agriculture and Treasurer.
And with Linn County’s votes finally fully tabulated — but still unofficial — Democrat Elizabeth Wilson won a close race for an open seat in Iowa House District 73. Wilson edged Republican Susie Weinacht by 300 votes, according to unofficial results reported by the Iowa Secretary of State and the Linn County Auditor.
Those unofficial results in Linn County came Thursday only after a recalculation of the county’s vote totals due to a second error made by the county auditor’s office.
According to the Secretary of State’s office, Linn County reported 600 more absentee ballots than the office had actually received at the time the polls closed. The discrepancy was discovered by the Secretary of State’s office, which then alerted the Linn County Auditor’s Office.
The Linn County Auditor’s Office resolved the tabulation of the county’s votes, and the posted results were corrected, the Secretary of State’s office said.
According to the Linn County Auditor’s Office, a computer froze while the county’s absentee ballot counts were being uploaded. The process was completed on a backup computer, but officials believe 600 ballots were inadvertently reported twice — once during the original attempt and again during the backup attempt.
According to the Secretary of State’s office, the Linn County Auditor’s Office failed to verify those vote totals before publishing the results on election night. A spokesman for Pate’s office said that is a “basic review process” recommended by the state office in multiple training sessions made available to local elections officials.
Pate, a Republican, and Linn County Auditor Joel Miller, a Democrat, were the candidates in the Iowa Secretary of State election Tuesday. Pate won and earned a fourth, non-consecutive four-year term as the state’s top elections official.
It was the second error made by Miller’s office this election. A county supervisor race was left off the ballot in one Linn County precinct. The Secretary of State’s office is reviewing that transgression, and Miller may face penalties under a new state law that heightened penalties for local elections officials who violate state elections law.
The state auditor and House District 73 races are among eight in Iowa that had not yet been called by the Associated Press as of late Thursday afternoon.
Another uncalled race is in House District 42 in Ankeny. According to the unofficial results, Democrat Heather Matson defeated Republican Garrett Gobble by just 24 votes out of roughly 14,000 cast. Gobble announced Thursday he will ask for a recount.
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