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Recounts Filed In Iowa House Districts 55 And 82

Maryland GovPics via flickr creative commons
Candidates in Iowa's closest statehouse races have requested recounts. Specially appointed boards have until December 3rd to review the ballots.

Democratic candidates are requesting recounts in two of Iowa’s closest legislative races. Review boards will take a second look at the races, in which candidates are separated by a handful of votes.

In House District 55, Democratic challenger Kayla Koether is down by seven votes against Republican incumbent Michael Bergan. Democratic incumbent Phil Miller is 34 votes behind Republican challenger Jeff Shipley in House District 82.

After Koether and Miller requested recounts in their respective races, it will now be up to specially appointed three member recount boards to review the ballots.

Koether has requested recounts in Winneshiek and Clayton Counties in the race for the district which covers Decorah, Elkader and West Union.

Miller has requested a recount in Jefferson County. His district also covers Davis and Van Buren Counties. 

Under Iowa Code, each candidate is able to appoint a member to a three member recount board, which oversees a single county. The two members jointly agree on the appointment of a third member. The board can than decide whether to conduct a manual or machine recount of ballots. Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines says the boards are able to review ballots for marks that voting machines may not pick up on. 

“If the person, like circles the names, instead of filling in the box. Or puts an ‘x’ behind the name instead of filling in the box in front of the name, the vote counting machine doesn’t see that,” Steines said. 

Steines says the boards have more leeway to interpret voter intent, and could decide to accept those kinds of votes. 

“If the person doesn’t make their mark in the right box, then the vote counting machine doesn’t…can’t make a judgement call. So that’s what we leave up to this recount board,” Steines said. 

The recount boards will only be reviewing ballots that were tallied and included in the initial count, not ballots that were rejected from the count. That's especially relevant in the House District 55 race, where Winneshiek County tossed out 32 late-arriving mail-in ballots, because they didn't have a postmark needed to verify when they were mailed, as required by state law. Elections workers in Fayette County improperly counted 12 such ballots, despite a lack of postmark. Both instances are outside the scope of the recount.

The recounts are slated to start after the Thanksgiving holiday, with final results due ahead of the official state canvass on December 3rd.

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.