OTTUMWA — The race for Iowa's U.S. House second district seat remains too close to call more than five days after polls closed.

After a machine recount in Jasper County, Democrat Rita Hart's lead grew by one vote to 163 over Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks. The Associated Press has not yet called the race as of Monday afternoon, and the results remain unofficial.

Jasper County elections officials met Monday to do a hand audit of one of the county's precincts, where a vote reporting error had been discovered last week that impacted the tight race significantly.

Thursday afternoon, the Jasper County Auditor's Office had discovered that due to a human data entry error, it had overreported vote totals on election night for one precinct.

Once corrected, Miller-Meeks lost 328 votes in the Clear Creek-Poweshiek precinct. She also lost the slim lead she had owned after the initial unofficial vote tally was reported Wednesday morning.

Hart and Miller-Meeks are gunning for the seat being vacated by Democratic congressman Dave Loebsack, who is retiring at the end of his current term.

Results of the race will likely remain in limbo as auditors in the 24-county house district work to certify election results. As of Monday afternoon, only two counties in the state had posted certified results to the Iowa Secretary of State's website, none of them in the house district.

Even after that work is completed, the results won't be certified by the state until Nov. 30.

Late absentee ballots add an additional twist to the race. As of Monday, there were 12,194 absentee ballots in the house district that had been requested but not returned. Those ballots, if they were postmarked by Nov. 2, had until noon Monday to arrive to be counted.

There is no automatic recount law in Iowa. Candidates can request one by Nov. 13.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, said the system worked to catch the error made in Jasper County and to correct it swiftly.

"We have protections in place in Iowa to ensure the integrity of the vote," Pate said in a statement Friday. "All elections are conducted on paper ballots. There is a paper trail that allows us to go back and look at all the results if there is a discrepancy. We conduct post-election audits. The system worked and we will make sure all the numbers are accurate."

On Friday, the Miller-Meeks campaign released a statement saying they don't believe the process has been transparent, saying there have been "unexplained discrepancies."

The Hart campaign Friday said they are confident Hart will be the elected congresswoman once the election recount is complete.

The race saw 393,760 votes cast — with 707 of them write-ins. As of Monday afternoon, Hart leads with 196,608 votes to Miller-Meeks' 196,445.

The Clear Creek-Poweshiek precinct includes smaller cities like Mingo and Valaria in northwestern Jasper County.

The Associated Press reported that Democrats have won 215 seats so far in U.S. House races around the country. To maintain a majority a party must have at least 218. Democrats are widely expected to maintain their majority, though Republicans have flipped a few seats from blue to red. There are 24 races not yet called.

Kyle Ocker is the group editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.


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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the first vice president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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