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Recount Officially Underway In 2nd Congressional District

Joyce Russell
IPR File
The districtwide recount in Iowa's 2nd Congressional District got underway Tuesday as election workers in Scott County began reexamining votes.

The recount in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District got underway Tuesday, as election workers in Scott County began re-examining ballots. Over the coming days, local officials will recount the 394,000 ballots cast in all 24 counties across Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.

The contest for southeast Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District remains the closest federal race in the country: unofficial results show Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks leads former Democratic state Sen. Rita Hart by just 47 votes.

The race remains too close to call and the lead has seesawed back and forth multiple times as counties have tallied absentee ballots and as election workers identified and corrected human error in the count in two counties.

Hart’s campaign cited the errors in Jasper and Lucas counties in its reasoning for requesting the district-wide recount.

The work is done by three-member recount boards, made up of one appointee named by each campaign and a third member they jointly agree on. If the two members can’t agree, the chief judge of the judicial district names someone.

A third of the counties told IPR that a third member had not been formally agreed upon as of Tuesday afternoon. According to the Keokuk County Auditor’s Office, a judge did step in to name the third board member for the recount there.

The deadline for a third member to be designated is Wednesday or Thursday, depending on when the county canvassed their election results.

Many counties are on track to start the recount this week. For some, that work will take days, depending on the share of the votes and whether the board decides to conduct the recount by machine, by hand, or a combination of both.

Van Buren County Auditor Lisa Plecker estimated the recount there would entail one very long day.

“I’m hoping to just have a really long day and get it taken care of,” she said.

Due to the extremely close margin and the national profile of the race, Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said he welcomes the process, though he noted the long, hard hours of additional work it warrants from the recount board and the staff of the auditor's and county attorney’s offices.

“Hopefully it’ll instill some confidence back into the election process,” he said.

In a memo released Monday, Hart campaign manager Zach Meunier made a point of emphasizing the importance of ensuring an accurate count and said he’s “optimistic” that Hart will be victorious.

“During the last two weeks we have seen the incredibly slim margin in this race shift back and forth between the two candidates due to reporting errors in several precincts,” reads a written statement from Meunier. “Given the number of errors that have emerged, Iowans deserve to know that all results are accurate before they are finalized.”

The Miller-Meeks campaign meanwhile has said it welcomes the recount and believes their slim lead will hold.

"The recount of votes in all 24 counties, which have already been officially certified, will ensure once again that every legal vote has been counted. That has been Senator Miller-Meeks' expectation, desire and commitment throughout the campaign,” reads a written statement from the campaign on Thursday. “We look forward to a speedy and efficient process to confirm that she is the winner of this race."

The state won’t formally declare a winner until the state canvass of votes on November 30.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter