DES MOINES, Iowa – Republican State Senator Marianette Miller-Meeks’ campaign blasted Scott County’s handling of their part of the recount being conducted in all 24 counties in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.
“After a week of the Second District recount, Mariannette Miller-Meeks is still winning this election, as expected, but the Hart campaign is doing its best to distort and manipulate the process. Because of the Hart campaign’s desperate practices, Scott County used an illegal recount method and is now missing numerous votes,” Eric Woolson, spokesman for the Miller-Meeks campaign, said in a released statement.
As of Sunday evening, Miller-Meeks leads former State Senator Rita Hart, D-Wheatland, by 38 votes in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District race. They said the hybrid method of counting ballots in Scott County leads to results that can’t be trusted.
Scott County’s recount board voted two to one to use a high-speed scanner to separate ballots with overvotes from other ballots and then hand count those ballots to determine voter intent. They used machines to tabulate the rest.
An overvote is when a voter votes for more than the allowable number of candidates.
This method contradicts guidance provided by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.
Molly Widen, legal counsel for the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, said in a memo sent to counties, “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.”
Woolson pointed to that guidance in the campaign’s objection.
“Iowa law requires a recount in each precinct to be conducted either by Iowa’s reliable optical-scan ballot tabulating equipment or by a hand count. The Iowa Secretary of State has instructed recount boards to use one or the other, but not to combine the two. Most recount boards have complied with that law, but the Hart campaign has advocated for an illegal ‘hybrid’ model in Democrat-leaning counties. The Scott County recount board, over the Miller-Meeks for Congress campaign’s objection and against the instructions of the Secretary of State, adopted this method,” he said.
“This hybrid recount method values some ballots over others and risks disenfranchising voters. The Hart campaign’s hybrid method also raises concerns about the accountability of the process. Because Iowa law does not allow for it, there is no accepted method to ensure that the recount results are accurate. There is no way to audit the work of the recount board using the hybrid method to verify its accuracy,” Woolson added.
He noted that at the end of the recount, Scott County’s recount board’s tally of absentee ballots is off by 12 from the Scott County Board of Supervisors recorded in their official canvass of votes.
“This discrepancy in results means no one can have confidence in the recount of absentee ballots in Scott County. A recount that cannot even get the total number of ballots correct cannot be trusted,” Woolson said. “The Miller-Meeks for Congress campaign is committed to a fair and transparent recount process in full compliance with Iowa law. A legal recount benefits not just the candidates but all Iowans. The Hart campaign’s focus on overturning the results of the election at all costs has done a disservice to the process.”