DES MOINES, Iowa – Miller-Meeks’ campaign accused Hart’s campaign of distorting the recount process underway in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. Scott County began the process on Tuesday, with Davis and Johnson counties starting on Wednesday. Former State Senator Rita Hart, D-Wheatland, requested a recount in the district’s 24 counties. She trails State Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Ottumwa, by 46 votes.
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said that counties would need to submit the amended election results by November 30, the deadline for the state’s certification of election results. The Hart campaign argues Iowa law allows for a delay in state certification in the event of a recount.
The law state, “If necessary, the state canvass required … shall be delayed with respect to the office or the nomination to which the recount pertains.”
“Unlike states that utilize a significant number of government staff persons and/or civic volunteers to conduct recounts, Iowa law requires a three-person recount board to conduct the recount in each county, regardless of the county’s size or the number of ballots being recounted. Some of these all-volunteer boards are already diligently working to complete their recounts by November 30, 2020,” the Hart campaign wrote.
The Hart campaign argued that some counties and recount boards interpret Pate’s guidance to mean precincts where ballots are being machine counted; the recount board cannot apply the law’s voter intent standards unless a full hand recount is conducted in that precinct.
“This is significant because of the unusually large number of absentee ballots in this election (which the counties generally treat as a single precinct), and because of the likelihood that these ballots contain valid votes for the candidates which a machine recount will not detect,” Hart’s campaign stated.
“The Secretary of State’s Office, in accordance with state law, has issued clear guidance on the recount process. That guidance prohibits what the Hart campaign requests: plucking votes out and adding them to the totals without checking if they have already been counted,” Miller-Meeks campaign spokesman Eric Woolson said.
“The Hart campaign doesn’t like the fact that Mariannette Miller-Meeks has won the race based on the official canvasses in all 24 counties and is attempting to manipulate the process until its candidate gets a do-over in her favor. In short, the Hart campaign’s attempt to alter the race’s outcome is misguided, does a disservice to the recount process, and should not be allowed to prevail,” he added.
Update: Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate affirmed his office’s original guidance that all votes in a precinct either have to be machine counted or hand-counted.
The specific guidance sent to counties by Molly Widen, legal counsel for the Iowa Secretary of State’s office reads, “If the Recount Board is going to conduct a hand recount of a precinct, then they are required by IAC 721—26.104 to tabulate all votes cast in that precinct. IAC 721—26.104 states in relevant part, ‘The responsibility of a recount board is to tabulate all votes for the office in question on ballots that were counted by the precinct election officials at the election.’ (emphasis added). Therefore, the Recount Board will need to determine on a precinct-by-precinct basis if a hand count will be conducted, and if so will be required to conduct a hand count of all ballots cast in that precinct.”
County recount boards can decide whether to machine count or hand count on a precinct by precinct basis, but they can’t selectively choose some ballots to hand count while machine counting the rest.
The Miller-Meeks campaign applauded the decision.
“We thank Secretary of State Pate for sticking with his original guidance regarding the hybrid recount scheme proposed by the Hart campaign and expect that all recount boards adhere to the best practices laid out by the Secretary of State,” Woolson said on behalf of the campaign.