Statement from the Rita Hart campaign
December 10, 2020
After last month’s recount in Iowa’s Second Congressional District left thousands of ballots uncounted, county auditors involved with the process and a local legislator are advocating for reforms to Iowa’s recount law.
As the Quad City Times reported last night, “the lack of an established, standard process in Iowa Code” for reviewing ballots in a recount meant that several counties failed to check thousands of ballots for voter intent and left 35 ballots from military service members and Iowans living overseas uncounted. State Rep. Mary Wolfe told the Times, “we can’t be sure that that happened in this recount, because of a combination of a lot of different issues and thousands of under votes that weren’t examined.” She plans to introduce bipartisan legislation to remedy the issue.
The calls for reform come as Rita Hart is preparing to file a petition with the U.S. House under the Federal Contested Elections Act to ensure that outstanding votes are counted and Iowans can finally find out who won this race. Under current Iowa law that would not be possible.
By Tom Barton
Iowa needs to change its recount process to provide more time, more assistance and more uniformity following discrepancies and confusion that beset Iowa’s incredibly tight Iowa 2nd Congressional District race, according to county auditors and an eastern Iowa lawmaker.
“A uniform process needs to be addressed,” said Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert, echoing opinions shared by county auditors in Scott and Clinton counties. “I don’t know what that process should be. We had multiple different recounts used in multiple different ways.”
…Hart’s campaign argues the partial hand recount was rife with errors and left thousands of votes unexamined.
…In Scott County, [auditor Roxanna] Mortiz said 35 ballots from military members and other Iowans living overseas were not counted due to a scanning error when voters submitted their ballots to the auditor’s office that lopped off the 2nd District race.
Hart’s campaign, too, contends 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.
…”When you’re recounting in a tight race, it makes sense you do some sort of recount where the recount board can consider the over and under votes … and determine what the voter intent was,” said Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker. “When you’re in a tight race, that’s really what it’s coming down to. … To do that you almost need to do a hand count and its impossible to get that done with a three-member board when you’re counting tens of thousands of ballots.”
…At issue is the lack of an established, standard process clearly spelled out in Iowa Code for reviewing tabulated over, under and write-in voted ballots to check to see if there was a valid vote the machine could not read correctly, but where the voter’s intent was clear, according to county auditors and recount board members.
… [State Rep. Mary] Wolfe said she intends to consult county auditors and state lawmakers from both parties across the district to discuss problems that arose during the recount for the purpose of authoring bipartisan legislation next session to revamp the process.
“It’s clear that consistency throughout all of the counties that are involved in the recount is needed,” Wolfe said. “The issues is what that consistent process looks like … to ensure all valid votes are counted. And we can’t be sure that that happened in this recount, because of a combination of a lot of different issues and thousands of under votes that weren’t examined. Those voters deserve to have their vote counted.”