Iowa District 2 votes were recounted multiple times and in the end, Republican Candidate Marianette Miller-Meeks won by a close election by 6 votes. Democrat Candidate Rita Hart claims that 22 votes weren't counted and if they were, she would've won.

How does Rita Hart know that 22 votes weren't counted? If these 22 votes that she claimed weren't counted, why doesn't the Iowa government go and ask those 22 people (whose votes may or may not have been counted) and ask them specifically who they voted for, instead of taking this to the House of Representatives? Shouldn't these Iowans know if their vote specifically wasn't counted?


3 Answers 3


According to the notice of contest filed by Rita Hart, the evidence for the 22 ballots comes from a combination of poll workers, county recount board records, county auditor records, and affirmations by the affected voters. As for asking the 22 people who they voted for - that has taken place - voters have waived their right to a secret ballot, and the affirmations under oath are included in the notice of contest.

Under the heading "Wrongfully Excluded Ballots", there is a helpful breakdown of each of the votes being contested, with a summary of the evidence supporting Hart's contest. These consist of:

Scott County Curbside Ballots (2)
This relates to two ballots that voters attempted to cast from their vehicles. The evidence for these votes comes in the form of notes made by poll workers at the time, as well as a later determination by the Scott County recount board that the votes were "mistakenly excluded from the initial canvass".

Marion County Absentee Ballots (9)
This relates to nine ballots that were erroneously uncounted in the initial canvass, and as a result were not counted in the subsequent recount. Specifically, the notice mentions a memorialized joint statement made by the Marion County Recount Board acknowledging that a box of votes labelled as holding 457 votes actually held 466 votes, and that as a result, 9 votes went uncounted which were lawfully cast.

The Recount Board decided that it lacked the authority to determine that the ballots were lawfully cast, and so did not include the 9 extra ballots in its recount. The notice of contest, however, makes the point that the ballots had been removed from their secrecy envelopes, which can only take place after a ballot has been determined to have been lawfully cast.

Johnson County Cured Provisional Ballot (1)
This relates to a single provisional ballot cast in Johnson County, which the notice of contest says went uncounted because of election worker error. The evidence it presents to support this claim is an apology letter to the affected voter from the Johnson County auditor which explains as much, in particular the quote "We are very sorry this happened, especially since you did everything you needed to do and should have had your vote counted".

Johnson County Signed Absentee Ballot (1)
This relates to an absentee ballot which was signed by the voter outside of the correct box. The notice of contest suggests that it is entirely reasonable for a voter to sign their name in such a way, and that as Iowa law does not entitle election officials to disenfranchise a voter based on the location of their signature, only its absence, the vote should be counted. The evidence presented for this is an affirmation by the affected voter that by signing as he did, he was affirming that he was legally entitled to cast said vote as required by Iowa statute.

Johnson County Voters With Pre-Sealed Ballot Envelopes (2)
This relates to two voters who received a sealed envelope with which post their absentee ballot back, as opposed to an unsealed envelope. As the voters unsealed the envelope to post their ballot, their votes were not counted as they looked as if they had been tampered with. The notice of contest makes the argument that as the voters were acting in good faith, their votes should be counted. For evidence of this good faith, they refer to various measures the two voters took at the time to try to ensure that they voted within the law, as well as affirmations from the affected voters.

Johnson and Scott County Voters Who Affirm They Sealed Their Ballots (5)
This relates to five ballots that were not counted due to not being securely sealed. The evidence for contesting this is in the form of affirmations from the affected voters attesting to the fact that they did seal them to the best of their ability.

Absentee Ballots Timely Returned to Auditor's Office (2)
This relates to two absentee ballots that were marked as received by election day - evidence for this is presented in the form of a scan of the ballot envelope - but were rejected as untimely because the Linn County auditor did not deliver the ballots to the correct county officials for counting before election day.

  • 10
    " Recount Board decided that it lacked the authority to include the 9 extra ballots in its recount" - I am not familiar with US elections. Wouldn't it be the point of a recount to count valid votes that previously went uncounted? Commented May 21, 2021 at 16:05
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    @EikePierstorff You'd certainly think so! The problem seems to have been that the recount board wasn't convinced that it had the authority to determine that the ballots were legally cast in the first place, and so tabulated them separately. The notice of contest argues that the ballots had been removed from the secrecy envelopes, which according to Iowa law, can only take place after a determination that the ballot has been legally cast - so the ballots should be included.
    – CDJB
    Commented May 21, 2021 at 16:18
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    From your link, it is relevant to quote at page 4 Of those wrongfully excluded 22 ballots, the evidence establishes that 18 were cast for Contestant Hart, three were cast for Contestee Miller-Meeks, and one did not record a vote for either candidate. Of course, those are Hart's claims.
    – SJuan76
    Commented May 21, 2021 at 19:57

According to the brief filed as part of the procedures of the Federal Contested Election Act, Rita Hart believes that 22 ballots were improperly rejected when the ballots were counted.

You can find the full brief here, and each of the 22 ballots and the reasons Hart believes they were improperly rejected can be found under the 'Question 3' section. Here are a few excerpts covering the gist of what she is challenging:

Two ballots validly cast by Scott County voters who voted curbside on Election Day that were erroneously not counted... After the poll worker struggled to get the tabulation machine to accept the ballots, she set them aside without counting them. As senior election officials in Scott County will confirm, setting the ballots aside without counting them was an error.

Nine ballots validly cast by Marion County absentee voters that were removed from their envelopes and accepted for counting but erroneously not counted...Nine ballots validly cast by Marion County absentee voters that were removed from their envelopes and accepted for counting but erroneously not counted. See id. ¶¶ 38–47. Iowa recount law provides that a “[recount] board shall recount only the ballots which were voted and counted for the office in question.” Iowa Code § 50.48(4)(a). The Marion County Recount Board members thus concluded that they lacked the authority to include in their recount ballots that had been excluded from the initial canvass...

Two ballots validly cast by Johnson County voters who received their absentee ballots with ballot envelopes that were already sealed and were consequently required to open the envelopes and reseal them, and that were not counted when election officials erroneously concluded that the ballot envelopes had been impermissibly resealed.

In short, Hart (and her staff/poll watchers) identified 22 ballots which were rejected for breaking some rule, and claims the errors were mainly the fault of election officials. Since she believes the mistakes were largely outside of the voters' control, she believes that they should have been counted.


In general this is completely normal. In an election the winners are usually announced before hard-to-count votes are looked at: military, mail-in, provisional, rejected by the first pass through the machine, and more categories. A typical recount adds some of those to the totals, but then lots of legal challenges deciding which are valid and which aren't. There are almost always a few dozen or hundred where you can tell who they meant to vote for, but they aren't counted because of the legal fight.

They don't re-canvas the actual voters and it wouldn't matter anyway. The idea is that marking a ballot isn't merely one way to figure out how you're voting. It's the legal way to vote. If your ballot is marked incorrectly or some procedure was missed, you lost your vote.

  • 7
    "many harder-to-count votes are never counted unless they might make a difference" - This is simply not true. It is a widespread misconception. Election officials generally do count military, mail-in, provisional, etc., ballots even if the winner is already "known" (or believed to be known). (This is not proof, but one way to see that it is implausible is to consider elections where there are many contests on the ballot.)
    – D.W.
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 21:56
  • @D.W. OK, not "never". I wanted to get across that the totals you see on TV are the easy votes. The rest are looked at and might be officially counted, or not. I'm thinking esp. of Florida 2000 where a year later they found Gore won if you just counted them, but that's not how we do it. Commented May 22, 2021 at 23:46
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    The totals you see on tv on election night and the days following are never the final official totals. You don't get those until weeks afterwards when all the ballots have been counted and it is certified.
    – Joe W
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 0:17
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    Sure but in this case there is a 6 vote difference 196,864 versus 196,858 which is not something you will see someone conceding on election night or even before the vote is certified. This was a very close election and those 22 votes could have easily changed it.
    – Joe W
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 0:14
  • 1
    This is a matter of answering the question that was asked, not what you think should have been asked. In this case it was about an election with a 6 vote difference which means that not counting 22 votes could swing the results completely. The fact that not counting 22 votes wouldn't impact many races isn't relevant here. All that matters is that counting those 22 votes could change the outcome of the race and how did she know that those 22 votes didn't get counted.
    – Joe W
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 17:16

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