Hart Mounts Challenge to Outcome in Iowa’s Second District

December 2, 2020 by Dan McCue
**FILE** Shown in this Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, file photo is State Sen. Rita Hart, D-Wheatland, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

WHEATLAND, Iowa – Democrat Rita Hart is challenging the vote totals in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, two days after a state board certified Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks the winner in a contest that came down to just six votes.

The race is the closest federal election in the country this year, and Hart said Wednesday she believes there are far more than enough legally cast ballots that were not considered during last week’s recount to change the outcome of the election.

She plans to file a petition with the House Committee on Administration under the Federal Contested Elections Act, a decision she says will allow for enough time for all legally cast ballots to be considered, ensuring Iowans’ votes are accurately counted.

“When the recount process began more than two weeks ago, Rita Hart was down by 47 votes. Since then, more Iowans’ ballots have been counted and Rita has continuously gained ground, narrowing the gap to a mere six votes,” said Hart campaign manager Zach Meunier in a written statement.

“While that recount considered more votes, limitations in Iowa law mean there are more legally cast votes left to be counted. With a margin this small, it is critical that we take this next step to ensure Iowans’ ballots that were legally cast are counted. In the weeks to come, we will file a petition with the House Committee on Administration requesting that these votes be counted, and we hope that Mariannette Miller-Meeks will join us in working to ensure that every Iowans’ voice is heard,” Meunier said. 

Hart’s campaign maintains that since Election Day, significant errors have occurred during the counting process, leading to confusion over who is the true winner of the race.

They note that:

  • On Nov. 6, Secretary of State Paul Pate announced a significant over-reporting error in Jasper County, triggering a county-wide recount;
  • Then, on November 10, Pate announced yet another reporting error, this time involving under-reported votes in Lucas County;
  • On November 23, the recount board in Jasper County conducted a machine recount that netted nine votes for Rita Hart. However, at the urging of the Miller-Meeks campaign, the recount board conducted yet another recount on November 25 that netted just one vote for the Democrat.

Further, the campaign said, many counties did not fully review ballots to identify valid votes that the machines did not recognize, in part because of the time and burden that would have been required for such a thorough count.

Once the initial district-wide canvass was completed on Nov. 12, the gap between the two candidates was 47 votes. After the state recount process, the margin has narrowed further to just six votes — making this the closest federal race since 1984.

More Iowans’ votes were counted after the state recount process, but time constraints and a lack of standard rules prevented all votes from being counted. The Federal Contested Elections Act petition will ensure that more Iowans’ votes are counted, the campaign said.

The Associated Press announced earlier this week that it will not declare a winner in the race until all legal options are exhausted.

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