The Second Congressional District election saga in Jasper County finally ended Wednesday evening, but not before the Rita Hart campaign fought one more time for approval of faulty results from a malfunctioning machine.
The Second District race, which is one of the closest in the country, has seen its fair share of drama in Jasper County. Because of a human error, the Jasper County results changed shortly after election day, resulting in an audit of the county’s ballots. That audit, which was effectively a recount of the district, showed the same vote totals for the county’s absentee ballots as the original report.
But after Hart requested a district-wide recount, Jasper County had to count its ballots once again.
That recount was delayed last week after the vote tabulating machine malfunctioned and had to be repaired. Last Sunday, after installing replacement parts in the machine, county officials ran the absentee ballots into the machine but this time the result was far different. The machine tabulated 17 ballots that had originally counted for either Hart or Miller-Meeks as undervotes (meaning that the machine did not register any vote for the Congressional race) or overvotes (meaning that the machine registered more than one vote in the Congressional race). The net result was that, under this new tally, Miller-Meeks received a net decrease of nine votes.
Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott, a Democrat, was quick to point out that the machine was still not working correctly, and he called in representatives of the machine company, ES&S, to help repair it.
As we reported earlier this week, the Hart campaign responded by arguing that the tally from the broken machine, which showed Hart improving her position, should be the final one. And, as we reported, Rob Sand’s legal counsel and chief of staff publicly declared his agreement with that incredible position.
Hearing that @RitaHartIA campaign voted to accept Sunday’s Jasper Co recount *after* they were told by top rep from the optical-scanner company that the machine wasn’t working correctly. #IA02 #iapolitics
— Iowa Field Report.com (@IAFieldReport) November 25, 2020
The recount board regrouped Wednesday afternoon to hear a report on the machine’s status. The board, which includes a representative from each campaign and a third person who was mutually agreed to by the Hart and Miller-Meeks campaigns, heard from a senior project manager for ES&S. He told the board, in response to a direct question from the Hart campaign representative, that the machine had not properly read the ballots on Sunday, meaning that the results were faulty.
Upon hearing the news that the Sunday results were faulty, the Hart campaign did not, as one would expect, agree that the votes needed to be counted again with a properly functioning machine. Instead, the Hart campaign representative voted to adopt the Sunday results, which he had just been told were inaccurate. The other members of the board overruled him, deciding instead to run the absentee ballots through a different machine whose accuracy had been confirmed by a test.
This time, the result was off just one vote from election day.
The Hart campaign has said that its interest is to make sure that every vote is properly counted, but its actions in Jasper County–arguing that vote totals from a broken machine should be adopted–show otherwise. It shows a campaign and a candidate that is desperate and will do whatever it takes to alter the will of the voters.
Hart may very well file a legal contest at the end of its recount, but given her actions in Jasper County, don’t expect a credible case.