Iowa Canvassing Board Certifies Republican as Winner of 2nd District Race

November 30, 2020 by Dan McCue
Republican State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (left) and Democrat Rita Hart (right) are facing off in a nail-biter to represent Iowa's 2nd Congressional District. As it stands now, the race could be decided by fewer than 10 votes.

In the end, it came down to a razor thin margin of six votes out of 394,441 cast, but that was margin enough for the Iowa state canvassing board Monday to declare Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks winner of the state’s hotly contested 2nd Congressional District race.

On Saturday, the Democratic stronghold of Clinton County completed its recount for the contest, the last of the state’s 24 counties to do so.

When it reported its results, Miller-Meeks’ challenger, Democrat Rita Hart, had gained a net of just two votes, seven short of what she needed to pull ahead.

Though the result will no doubt be challenged in court, Miller-Meeks wasted no time in declaring victory over the weekend.

“While the race is extraordinarily close, I am proud to have won this contest and look forward to being certified as the winner by the state’s Executive Council on Monday,” she said in a statement.

“It is the honor of a lifetime to be elected to serve the people of eastern and southern Iowa. Iowans are tenacious, optimistic and hard-working, and I will take those same attributes to Washington, D.C., on their behalf,” Miller-Meeks continued.

“From 24 years of service to our country in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves to my several decades of protecting the health of Iowans as a medical professional, I will bring that same Iowa grit to Congress by working to strengthen our health care system, combat the COVID pandemic and get Iowans safely back to work and school,” she said.

But in a statement of his own, Zach Meunier, Iowa campaign manager for Rita Hart, said Miller-Meeks had vigorously sought to disqualify as many Democratic votes as she could and “limit the number of Iowans whose votes are counted.”

“We have said from the beginning of this recount process that the most important thing is that Iowans’ voices are heard and their votes are counted fairly,” Meunier said. “Moreover, under Iowa law, the recount was limited to the universe of ballots initially counted after Election Day.”

Late Monday afternoon, Meunier released a second statement that said, “Throughout this entire recount process, our goal has always been to ensure that Iowans’ votes are thoroughly and fairly counted.

“When we began this recount, Rita Hart was down by 47 votes. As more Iowans’ voices were heard, the margin has narrowed dramatically and is now down to a mere 6 votes — making this the closest congressional race in recent history, and one of the very closest in the last hundred years,” he said.

“This is despite the fact that, at every turn, the Miller-Meeks campaign has sought to keep legitimate votes from being counted — pushing to disqualify and limit the number of Iowans whose votes are counted.

“Under Iowa law, this recount process was designed to count ballots that had already been tallied, meaning that additional legal ballots may have yet to be counted. Over the next few days, we will outline our next steps in this process to ensure that all Iowans’ voices are heard,” Meunier said.

There were times during the recount that Hart appeared certain to best Miller-Meeks.

Indeed, the longer the recount took, the better it seemed to be going for Hart, who argued that the only ballots that should be counted were those that were considered on election night.

While close, this was not the closest congressional race in Iowa history. That distinction goes to the 1916 election of George C. Scott, who won by four votes over Democrat T.J. Steele to represent Iowa’s then 11th Congressional District.

Since that time, only three state congressional races have come within 500 votes.

By law in Iowa, each county canvass board finalizes its summary and submits it to the county auditor, those auditors report the results to Secretary of State Paul Pate.

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