ELECTION 2020

Recount in Jasper County changes little in U.S. District 2 congressional race

1 more vote found for Rita Hart, who leads Mariannette Miller-Meeks by less than 200 votes in unofficial tall

Rita Hart answers a question during a debate with Mariannette Miller-Meeks on Oct. 8 at the KCRG studios in Cedar Rapids
Rita Hart answers a question during a debate with Mariannette Miller-Meeks on Oct. 8 at the KCRG studios in Cedar Rapids. The winner of the race will fill the seat left vacant by Rep. Dave Loebsack. Unofficial election results have Hart ahead of Miller-Meeks by fewer than 200 votes. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Iowa’s tight 2nd Congressional District U.S. House election remained too close to call Monday after a recount of more than 19,000 ballots over the weekend in Jasper County barely nudged the needle.

“The countywide recount didn’t make any significant changes,” Iowa Secretary of State’s Office Communications Director Kevin Hall said.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate ordered the recount, including a hand audit conducted Monday of nearly 600 ballots, after Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott notified the state of a “human error” that resulted in an inaccurate count of 591 Election Day ballots cast at a precinct in Mingo.

The countywide recount affirmed the adjustment made Friday to the unofficial vote count due to a data entry error in Jasper County that led to the overreporting of votes cast in the Mingo precinct.

On Monday, FiveThirtyEight Politics labeled the open-seat race to replace retiring seven-term Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack as “perhaps the closest race in the country,” with Democratic former state Sen. Rita Hart of Wheatland still leading by fewer than 200 votes against Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa.

The current margin is just 0.04 percentage points, so Miller-Meeks could request a recount paid for by the state.

Initial preliminary results had Miller-Meeks up by 282 votes over Hart.

But after the adjustment correcting the Jasper County error, Hart overtook Miller-Meeks with a lead of 162 votes out of more than 393,700 cast. The lead changed slightly over the weekend to a 163-vote lead after the countywide recount.

The most recent numbers now have Hart leading by 152 votes out of 393,895 cast in the 24-county district, after additional absentee and provisional ballots were counted. The district includes Scott, Muscatine, Louisa and Clinton counties.

Those results remain unofficial, and still could change, with the outcome of Monday’s hand audit of the Mingo precinct and the potential addition of absentee ballots that were postmarked before Election Day and received by county auditors by noon Monday.

The numbers are not finalized until after counties conduct postelection audits and canvasses, and the numbers are certified on a statewide basis at the end of the month.

County election boards must complete the official canvass of votes in each count by the end of Tuesday. Campaigns then have three days after the canvass to request a recount.

Jasper and Scott counties are scheduled to canvass votes Tuesday.

Hall said new results will be uploaded to the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office website by Wednesday morning following the canvass of votes by counties.

The Miller-Meeks campaign issued a statement later Friday raising concerns with the process.

“We do not agree with the Jasper County Auditor and the Secretary of State’s Office that there has been sufficient transparency concerning the machine irregularities and the auditor’s own claims that human error in the tabulation process arose after results were reported,” a statement from the Miller-Meeks campaign said.

The Miller-Meeks campaign did not respond to a message seeking comment Monday afternoon.

On Monday, Hart released a video statement on Twitter stating “the most important thing is that we get this right.”

Her campaign on Monday stated the recount and audit process has been transparent and was working as intended.

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