ELECTION 2020

Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Rita Hart both attend orientation for new U.S. House members

Newly elected members of Congress participate in a Friday orientation session on Capitol Hill. Both Mariannette Miller-M
Newly elected members of Congress participate in a Friday orientation session on Capitol Hill. Both Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Rita Hart, the candidates in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, are attending the orientation, given that only 47 votes separate them and a recount of votes is pending. (Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP)

With just a few dozen votes still separating them and a districtwide recount pending, both candidates in Iowa’s still-too-close-to-call 2nd Congressional District prepared for the possibility they’ll be the one sworn into Congress in January.

After a postelection recount of two precincts in Lucas and Jasper counties, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was still ahead by 47 votes, out of more than 394,000 cast, a margin of just 0.02 percent as of Friday afternoon.

While Miller-Meeks has claimed victory, Democrat Rita Hart has requested a recount of the results in all 24 counties in the southeastern Iowa district.

Counties have 18 calendar days from their canvass of votes to complete their recounts, which would be Nov. 27 or 28.

If there are any changes, the county will amend its canvasses results to reflect the changes.

The state will not declare an official winner in the race until it certifies the general election results statewide Nov. 30.

The Associated Press has announced it will not call the race until then.

Both Miller-Meeks and Hart traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to participate in orientation for new members of Congress, according to spokespersons for both campaigns.

The first session of new member orientation for the 117th Congress began Thursday, continued Friday and will run through Nov. 21. A second session will follow after Thanksgiving.

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There were more than a dozen uncalled House races in New York, California, Iowa and Utah, according to RollCall.com. Candidates in tight, uncalled races are traditionally invited to attend the freshmen orientation.

Hart’s campaign said some smaller counties could begin recounts as early as Tuesday, though it’s more likely counties would not begin until late next week or early the following week.

Per state law, the recount shall be conducted by a three-member board consisting of one representative for each candidate, plus a third person mutually chosen by each campaign.

If the campaign cannot agree on a third person by 8 a.m. on the ninth day following the county board’s canvass of votes, the chief judge for the judicial district has two days to appoint the final member.

The recount will be overseen by the county election commissioner or his or her designee to “supervise the handling of ballots to ensure that the ballots are protected from alteration or damage,” according to Iowa Code.

Recounts rarely change results, Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz said. However, “either way you go, it’s so close that I would want a recount.”

“It’s an important part of democracy and check and balance to make sure every vote counts,” she said.

“I’m not sure if (Hart’s campaign will) find the votes they’re looking for. But they only need to find a few votes in each county where ballots were mismarked and the equipment didn’t read them. Really, this is the part where a recount board gets to look at voter intent.”

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The race has flipped back and forth over the last two weeks after local elections officials discovered errors in the reporting of results in two precincts — one each in Jasper and Lucas counties. Officials recounted the ballots in those two precincts by hand, and as an extra layer of caution, also recounted the entire county’s ballots by machine.

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