Republican Marianette Miller-Meeks regained the lead in the race for the open seat in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, after Lucas County updated its election results on Monday night.
As of noon on Tuesday, the Iowa Secretary of State’s unofficial vote tally had Miller-Meeks ahead of Democrat Rita Hart by 50 votes, with 196,823 votes to Hart’s 196,773.
Miller-Meeks led Hart in the official results on election night by 282 votes. But on Thursday, the Jasper County Auditor’s Office discovered an error in how the votes in one precinct were recorded. After that mistake was corrected, Hart moved into the lead.
A machine recount of all the votes in Jasper County, and a hand recount of the previously misreported precinct confirmed a lead for Hart of 152 votes. But after 9 p.m. on Monday, the Secretary of State’s Office updated its unofficial vote totals in the district again, this time with amended results from Lucas County.
During a news conference in Chariton on Tuesday morning, Secretary of State Paul Pate and Lucas County Auditor Julie Masters addressed the county’s revised vote totals.
Data from a pre-election test of Lucas County’s vote reporting system had not been completely cleared prior to the actual vote being tabulated, and the test data for one precinct was included in the election totals instead of the actual votes from that precinct.
“The error has been corrected and the new totals have been added,” Pate said at the news conference. “As you might have noticed, this change has made a significant difference in the unofficial results of Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District race.”
The actual omitted vote total from the precinct that covers the town of Russell was 217 votes for Miller-Meeks and 54 votes for Hart.
Counties are supposed to certify their voting results from last Tuesday’s election today, and this morning the Lucas County Board of Supervisors voted to certify the results as the auditor’s office reported them on Monday night.
But at Pate’s instruction, Masters’ office will be conducting a machine recount of all the ballots cast in the county and a hand recount of ballots from the Russell Precinct.
The machine recount is tentatively scheduled for Thursday morning, according to Pate.
“If that goes smoothly as we anticipate, then in the afternoon they’ll start the hand recount of the precinct in question,” he said.
Both recounts will be open to the press and the public, according to Masters. If the recounts result in a different vote total than the one approved Monday morning, the Board of Supervisors will be asked to certify the amended total.
Counties must submit their certified vote totals to the Secretary of State’s Office by Monday, Nov. 16. Pate said his office will then review the totals. The final certification of the vote will take place on Nov. 30.
Pate said vote totals from other counties may also end up being different than what was reported on election night, as provisional ballots are corrected and absentee ballots that were postmarked by the Nov. 2 but arrived after Election Day are added.
John Deeth of the Johnson County Auditor’s Office tweeted on Monday there had been a minor change in the county’s vote total between its initial report on election night and its final canvas of the votes on Monday.
Johnson counted 37 more today with a net gain for Hart of 14 (+24 Hart, +10 MMM, 3 undervotes): https://t.co/6vzgQdiSnI Not yet showing on SOS site
— John Deeth 🐢 (@johndeeth) November 10, 2020
The current total on the Secretary of State’s site does not reflect the final numbers from Johnson County, which give Hart a net gain of 14 more votes from the county.
Prior to the news conference in Lucas County, the Hart campaign said in a statement, “Over the last several days, multiple consequential errors have materialized in this race that have serious implications for the district’s future representation. Given multiple errors found in Jasper and Lucas counties at the eleventh hour, the counties should take special care to ensure that they have accurately counted every ballot and the totals are correct.”
Both campaigns have until Friday to request a recount of either the entire 2nd Congressional District or selected parts of it.