The closest House election in the country is even closer now. I wrote about this race earlier this month. Iowa Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks led Democrat Rita Hart on election night by fewer than 300 votes. Then an election auditor discovered that Jasper County had counted a block of 406 votes for Miller-Meeks twice. Subtracting those double-counted votes put Hart in the lead. But then another county discovered it had failed to report 271 votes for Miller-Meeks, putting her back in the lead but only by 47 votes. Now a recount has tightened the race to single digits.
Miller-Meeks now holds a razor-thin, 36-vote lead out of more than 394,400 votes cast in the race, according to unofficial results posted on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website as of Monday morning. The Iowa state senator from Ottumwa was ahead by 47 votes earlier last week. The new vote totals reflect unofficial results submitted by 15 out of the 24 counties in the district that have completed their recounts, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Those results do not include Scott County, where Democrat Rita Hart picked up a net 30 more votes than Miller-Meeks in the county recount, which wrapped up Saturday evening, according to representatives from both campaigns.
So if Miller-Meeks is up 36 but Scott County shows another 30 votes for Hart, that brings the lead to just six votes. Miller-Meeks camp is now arguing that the process used to come up with these new votes is not legal:
Miller-Meeks campaign claims the Scott County recount board — consisting of one representative selected by each campaign and a third mutually chosen representative — used an “illegal ‘hybrid’ model” for recounting votes.
Iowa law requires a recount in each precinct to be conducted either by optical-scan ballot tabulating equipment or by a hand count.
Recount boards were conducting both machine and hand recounts of ballots cast in Scott, Johnson and Clinton counties — the three most populous in the district — using machines to separate and then hand recount ballots the machine had trouble reading.
In essence, the counties are using the machines to identify undervotes and overvotes and then looking at those ballots by hand to try to determine voter intent. A County Attorney in Scott County issued an opinion that this process was legal but that may yet be challenged. Miller-Meeks camp has pointed out that the recount total is 12 votes different than the official canvas of the vote the county had issued earlier. In a case where the race is down to single digits a 12 vote difference is arguable pretty significant.
We won’t have to wait too much longer to get a result in this content. The deadline for certifying the vote is next Monday, so I think it’s a safe bet the lawyers for both sides are going to be busy this week.