With just a few dozen votes still separating them and a district-wide recount looming, both candidates in Iowa's still-too-close-to-call 2nd congressional district prepared for the possibility that they'll be sworn in to Congress in January.
A hand recount of ballots in one Lucas County precinct on Friday left the margin unchanged.
The audit was ordered earlier this week after a Lucas County precinct mistakenly reported test data rather than election night results. County election officials conducted a countywide machine recount Thursday. Neither changed either candidate's vote totals, and the results of Friday's hand recount came out the same as the machine count on election night and the county-wide administrative recount Thursday, Lucas County Auditor Julie Masters said.
Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was still ahead by just 47 votes out of more than 394,000 cast, for a margin of just .02% as of Friday afternoon.
While Miller-Meeks has claimed victory, Democrat Rita Hart has requested a recount of the results in all 24 counties in the southeastern Iowa district. Hart's campaign said it had completed drop-offs of all recount filings for all counties as of 4 p.m. Friday.
Counties have 18 calendar days from their canvass of votes to complete their recounts, which would be Nov. 27 or 28.
If there are any changes, the county will amend its canvasses results to reflect the changes. The state will not declare an official winner in the race until it certifies the general election results statewide on Nov. 30. The Associated Press also announced it will not call the race until then.
Both Miller-Meeks and Hart traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to participate in orientation for new members of Congress, according to spokespersons for both campaigns.
The first session of new member orientation for the 117th Congress began Thursday, continued Friday and will run through Nov. 21. A second session will follow after Thanksgiving.
There were more than a dozen uncalled House races in New York, California, Iowa and Utah, according to RollCall.com. Candidates in tight, uncalled races are traditionally invited to attend the freshmen orientation.
Hart's campaign said some smaller counties could begin recounts as early as Tuesday, though it’s more likely counties would not begin until late next week or early the following the week.
Per state law, the recount shall be conducted by a three-member board consisting of one representative for each candidate, plus a third person mutually chosen by each campaign. If the campaign cannot agree on a third person by 8 a.m. on the ninth day following the county board's canvass of votes, the chief judge for the judicial district has two days to appoint the final member.
"When all members of the recount board have been selected, the board shall undertake and complete the required recount as expeditiously as reasonably possible," overseen by the county election commissioner or his or her designee to "supervise the handling of ballots to ensure that the ballots are protected from alteration or damage," according to Iowa Code.
The Scott County Board of Supervisors will meet virtually at 9:30 a.m. Monday to approve a resolution for an order to conduct a recount in the 2nd District race.
Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz on Friday said she did not yet know when a recount would be conducted, as the campaigns still have to go through the process of picking their three-member recount board.
She said the last "major county recount" was in 2000 in the Scott County recorder's race, where vote totals changed slightly but not enough to give challenger Rita Vargas a win over Ed Winborn after she sought a recount.
Recounts rarely change results, Moritz said. However, "either way you go, it's so close that I would want a recount."
"It’s an important part of democracy and check and balance to make sure every vote counts," Moritz said. "I’m not sure if (Hart's campaign will) find the votes they’re looking for. But they only need to find a few votes in each county where ballots were mismarked and the equipment didn’t read them. Really, this is the part where a recount board gets to look at voter intent."
The race has flipped back and forth over the last two weeks after local elections officials have discovered errors in the reporting of results in two precincts: one each in Jasper and Lucas counties. Officials have recounted the ballots in those two precincts by hand, and as an extra layer of caution, also recounted the entire county’s ballots by machine.
"I have full confidence and faith in the equipment," because of the results of past recounts, "and experience tells us it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing," Moritz said. "We did a post-election audit yesterday (of one randomly selected Davenport precinct) and it was exactly right (as what was reported on Election Night)."
The Iowa Secretary of State's Office will certify the state's results on Nov. 30.
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