ELECTION 2020

Second recount ordered in close 2nd District election results

Miller-Meeks declares victory; Hart says not so fast

Rita Hart answers a question during an Oct. 8 debate with Mariannette Miller-Meeks at KCRG studios in Cedar Rapids. (Reb
Rita Hart answers a question during an Oct. 8 debate with Mariannette Miller-Meeks at KCRG studios in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CHARITON — Another 4,000-plus ballots will be recounted in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, the result of a second discovery of erroneously reported results in a race between two candidates who, as of Tuesday night were separated by a scant 40 votes.

The latest error: Results from the lone precinct in the small town of Russell in Lucas County inadvertently were not reported, elections officials said. The mistake — the result of human error, a local official said — was discovered Monday and reported.

When the missing precinct results were added, the updated vote count flipped the lead in Iowa’s 2nd District race between Democrat Rita Hart and Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks. The gain pushed Miller-Meeks into the lead in the unofficial results.

As of Tuesday evening, Miller-Meeks led the unofficial results by 40 votes over Hart in a race in which more than 394,000 have been cast.

Late Tuesday, both campaigns issued dueling statements, with Miller-Meeks declaring victory after all 24 counties in the Southeast Iowa district individually certified their official canvass of votes.

Hart’s campaign, however, stressed the race was still too close to call, with the prospect of recount almost certain.

Campaigns have until 5 p.m. Friday to request a recount paid for by the state because of the margin in the race.

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“I express my heartfelt gratitude to the voters of Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District and acknowledge my opponent Rita Hart’s grace and positive demeanor during this challenging campaign,” Miller-Meeks said in a statement. “The election is over, and it is time to move forward together and focus on the priorities that will best serve Iowans.”

Hart’s campaign manager, Zach Meunier, stressed the “vote totals in this race continue to fluctuate, and both Iowa officials and independent news organizations have made it clear that the race is too close to call.”

The Associated Press announced it was suspending its tabulation of the uncalled U.S. House race until general election results are certified by the state Nov. 30.

Late Tuesday, the still-updating official results showed Miller-Meeks with 196,852 votes to Hart’s 196,812.

“It’s just an emotional roller-coaster,” said Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa. “ ... We’re never going to be able to say again that your vote doesn’t count.”

Because of the Lucas County error, all of Lucas County’s 4,196 votes will be recounted by machine, and the 458 ballots from the Russell precinct will be recounted by hand. The recount will take place Thursday.

It is the same process undertaken late last week in Jasper County, also in the 2nd District, where one precinct’s results were initially reported incorrectly.

The unofficial Election Day ballots in the Russell precinct show 217 votes for Miller-Meeks and 54 for Hart. The addition of those votes flipped the race’s unofficial results.

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“This race is one of the closest federal races in the nation this year, and we want to make sure we get it right,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said Tuesday during a news conference at the Lucas County Courthouse. “As I’ve said many times, election night results are always unofficial.”

Lucas County Auditor Julie Masters said the error occurred when test data was not cleared from the Russell precinct, so the computer program thought it had results when it did not. Masters said it was a human error.

Rod Boshart of The Gazette contributed to this report.

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