116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It’s been more than three weeks since Democrat Rita Hart ended her bid for a congressional probe into the 2020 2nd District election she lost by six votes. Anyone who watched the saga unfold knows it uncovered flaws in Iowa’s recount process.
The timeline allowed for evaluating Hart’s state recount request in a race that drew more than 400,000 votes was unduly compressed. If she had asked state judges to review the certified outcome, a December deadline would have given the them just days to review the election. It seems like a system geared more toward settling county or legislative races than congressional or statewide votes.
Counties’ procedures were not uniform and election boards lacked the personnel needed to take on the job. Ballots legally cast but excluded by error could not be counted.
This looks like a job for the Iowa Legislature. Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, has called for bipartisan legislative leadership to come together behind recount changes before the current legislative session ends. Earlier in the session, Republicans who control the Legislature said they wouldn’t consider changes while Hart continued her recount effort.
That’s over, but GOP leaders are noncommittal on whether changes will be taken up. Maybe they can be incorporated into a pending bill containing noncontroversial, technical election law changes. Or maybe not. Some lawmakers want to wait until next year. But by then, congressional contests will already be underway and election year partisanship could make even common sense changes less attractive.
Lawmakers should act now while the lessons of the 2nd District contest are fresh in our minds and before partisanship makes a bipartisan package far less possible. For all the dubious claims we’ve heard about the need to protect election “integrity” this session, the need to fix Iowa’s recount process is no fiction.
There’s no reason to believe Iowa won’t face excruciatingly close elections in the future. Iowa’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd Districts could be hotly contested again in 2022, depending on the outcome of the delayed redistricting process. Voters deserve legislative action that makes it more likely their votes will be counted and their intent will be certified by a fair, transparent process.
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