Republican declares victory in closest House race in the country (but there’s going to be a recount)

Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Democrat Rita Hart have been involved in the tightest House race of this election in Iowa’s 2nd congressional district. On election night, Miller-Meeks was up by 282 votes out of nearly 400,000 cast and declared that she was the winner:

Miller-Meeks took to the stage at her election night event, even as counting was incomplete, after midnight Wednesday morning to claim victory.

“We know this has been a long night, and we knew this was going to be a very tight race, and we wouldn’t know results until later, but with 282 votes from the Secretary of State’s Office ahead of our opponent, you are now looking at the new congresswoman from the 2nd Congressional District of Iowa,” Miller-Meeks said.

Iowa officials announced they would “canvas” the vote on November 10 and after that either candidate could request a recount. But it turned out the drama in Iowa-2 was just beginning. On the Thursday after the election, an auditor discovered a mistake in Jasper County:

After all counties had reported their results, Miller-Meeks was ahead by 282 votes. But Friday morning, the results updated after the Jasper County Auditor’s Office reported a single precinct had overcounted: The Clear Creek-Poweshiek precinct had reported nearly double the actual 400 ballots cast there for Miller-Meeks.

“Thursday, I started looking at the report and thought, ‘Oh boy,’” Deputy Auditor Tina Mulgrew said Monday.

After his office caught the error Thursday afternoon, Parrott’s staff reported the overcount to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office and went to the Jasper County Board of Supervisors to secure permission to perform an administrative recount. That administrative recount, a machine tally of all the county’s ballots, was completed Saturday.

After the machine count to confirm the error, a hand count was ordered and carried out by 4 Republicans, 4 Democrats and 2 Independents. They wound up hand counting the votes from one precinct seven times because the hand count showed a single vote difference from the machine count. After spending all day on the problem, the counters decided it came down to one vote where the voter had marked a bit outside the box, causing the machine to not be able to read it properly.

The big picture was that having subtracted 406 votes (the amount of the double count in Jasper county), Democrat Rita Hart took the lead in the race. But that wasn’t the end of the story. On Monday night of this week as Jasper County was clarifying its results, Lucas County discovered that in one precinct a total of 271 ballots had not been reported. Those votes split 217 for Miller-Meeks and 54 for Hart. And with that Miller-Meeks was once again in the lead by 47 votes. Yesterday, Miller-Meeks once again declared victory:

“I express my heartfelt gratitude to the voters of Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District and acknowledge my opponent (Democrat) Rita Hart’s grace and positive demeanor during this challenging campaign,” Miller-Meeks said in a statement. “The election is over and it is time to move forward together and focus on the priorities that will best serve Iowans.”

But Rita Hart’s campaign manager predicted that when all was said and done she would be declared the winner:

“Iowa is a state that values election integrity, and Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ campaign’s attempts to usurp this process undermines that integrity,” he said in a statement. “We appreciate the hard work of our poll workers and election officials to accurately count all legal ballots and the votes and are confident, by the end of this process, that Rita Hart will be the next congresswoman from Iowa’s 2nd District.”

Her campaign manager also announced today that Hart would be requesting a full recount:

“With so much at stake in this election and such a slim margin separating the candidates, Iowans deserve to know categorically that their ballots have been accurately counted. Over the last several days, multiple consequential errors have materialized in this race that have serious implications for the district’s future representation,” Hart’s campaign manager, Zach Meunier, said in a statement Thursday.

Meanwhile, Miller-Meeks appeared on Fox & Friends this morning and said that the certified vote shows she won the election. At this point it seems like that’s probably the case but because Hart has requested a recount we’ll have to wait a couple more weeks to be sure. Here’s Miller-Meeks’ appearance on Fox this morning:

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