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Recount procedures standardized under new elections law bill
Local elections officials largely express support at hearing
DES MOINES — Election recount procedures in Iowa would be clarified and standardized under elections law changes advanced by state lawmakers Wednesday.
Inconsistencies in Iowa’s election recount procedures have been laid bare as multiple elections have gone to recounts over the past two election cycles.
Iowa Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton who introduced the proposed legislation, said it is designed to create procedures that will generate consistency in future recounts.
The proposal generally is supported by county elections officials who conduct Iowa’s elections, according to those who spoke at a legislative hearing on the proposal Wednesday at the Iowa Capitol.
“You had different recount options all across the state, depending on where you were and what they decided,” Kaufmann said. “And the one thing I heard from Democrats, Republicans, auditors, people that sit on recount boards, is we need uniformity. We need predictability. We need to know exactly what we’re all getting into: no ambiguity, no gray area. … That was my motivation, was to create a uniform set of rules that everybody knows what the game is, everybody knows how to play it, everybody knows what the rules are.”
Under the proposal:
- The deadline to request a recount would be moved from the third day following the canvass of election results to two days after the canvass, and a recount board must convene within six days of the canvass.
- Recounts must be completed within 17 days of the canvass for a presidential election, within 21 days of the election for Congress or state office, and within 13 days of any other election.
- A recount request must include all precincts in a county, the request must state whether a machine recount is requested or a machine and hand recount, and any request for a hand recount must include all counties in a district.
- More populous counties would be given the ability to add more workers to its recount board, which oversees the process. Under current law, each county — regardless of its size — can have only three recount board members.
“Just want to make sure that whatever we do going forward (on recount procedure) is reliable and done in a timely matter and very predictable,” said Rep. David Young, a Republican from Van Meter who was on the three-member legislative panel that considered the proposal Wednesday. That panel also included Kaufmann and Rep. Amy Nielsen, a Democrat from North Liberty.
A representative of the state association that represents Iowa’s county auditors — the local officials who administer Iowa’s elections — gave a mostly positive review of the proposal.
Jamie Cashman, a lobbyist for the Iowa State Association of County Auditors, said the legislation includes many recommendations made by county auditors who had formed working groups to propose changes to Iowa’s recount laws.
“This (legislation) represents a lot of conversations we have had over the years, specifically a lot of the good things you’re putting here in regard to recounts,” Cashman said.
Cerro Gordo County Auditor Adam Wedmore also complimented the proposal.
“There are some positive things that we’ve been talking about for several years, some improvements to our election process that will make it more streamlined from county to county when it comes to the recount process,” Wedmore said at the hearing. “(The proposal will) also ensure that we have enough members on a recount board in a timely manner to actually complete recounts.”
The panel advanced the proposal, House File 356, making it eligible for consideration by the full House committee on state government.
Of the election recounts conducted in Iowa over the past two cycles, the most visible involved U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ 2020 victory by just six votes. That outcome was recounted in all 24 counties in the congressional district.
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