DES MOINES, Iowa (KWWL) - The Iowa State Canvassing Board certified the results of November's general election during a meeting in Des Moines Monday.
They include a six-vote win for Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks over Democrat Rita Hart in Iowa's Second Congressional District. As it stands now, the race is the closest for a U.S. House seat since 1984 and the tightest in the Hawkeye State since 1916.
The race has tightened considerably from the 47 votes lead the Miller-Meeks campaign had on election night. Over the past several weeks, all 24 of the counties in Iowa's Second Congressional District recounted all votes cast in the race. It cut the lead to single digits and led to several disagreements between the two campaigns over how the process should work.
Miller-Meeks declared victory following Clinton County's recount on Saturday, the last one that was still outstanding.
"While the race us extraordinarily close, I am proud to have won this contest and look forward to being certified as“While the race is extraordinarily close, I am proud to have won this contest and look forward to being certified as the winner by the state’s Executive Council on Monday,” Miller-Meeks said in a statement. “It is the honor of a lifetime to be elected to serve the people of eastern and southern Iowa. Iowans are tenacious, optimistic, and hard-working, and I will take those same attributes to Washington, D.C., on their behalf. From 24 years of service to our country in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves to my several decades of protecting the health of Iowans as a medical professional, I will bring that same Iowa grit to Congress by working to strengthen our healthcare system, combat the COVID pandemic, and get Iowans safely back to work and school.”Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks statement on Saturday November 28
Even with the results now certified, Hart's campaign said it would continue its fight.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, Hart Campaign Manager Zach Meunier said the process should continue to ensure all Iowans' voices are heard.
"At every turn, the Miller-Meeks campaign has sought to keep legitimate votes from being counted -- pushing to disqualify and limit the number of Iowans whose votes are counted," Meunier said. "Under Iowa law, this recount process was designed to count ballots that had already been tallied, meaning that additional legal ballots may have yet to be counted."
Meunier said the campaign would release more information on its next steps in the coming days.
After this afternoon's certification, both campaigns now have two days to take legal action. Hart's campaign has not said whether they will take their case to the courts, but they have offered a preview of their arguments.
If either side does file a legal challenge, the state will form what is known as a "contest court." The court would be made up of Chief Justice Susan Christensen and four other district judges.
Under Iowa law, the court would be expected to decide who won by December 8th.
KWWL Political Analyst Chris Larimer said contest courts are not often used because it is rare that races are this close.
"It is a little unusual for Iowa, but I also don't think it is unusual to expect this to go forward with legal proceedings given how close it is," Larimer said.
If the content court goes Miller-Meeks way, Hart could appeal to the Democratically controlled U.S. House of Representatives. Ultimately, the House does have the power to judge the elections of its members.
"That is also very rare to get to that point to have Congress weigh-in," Larimer said. "Then they are going to have to open up everything with regards to this race and really look at it. They would only make that decision to do so and really try to challenge that if they felt like there was something that didn't proceed fairly."
Larimer said he is hard-pressed to find anything like the twist and turns of this Second Congressional District race in Iowa history. He compared it to the 2012 Iowa Caucuses votes from eight precincts added 16 days after the fact, giving Rick Santorum the victory over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Larimer said the razor thin margin should serve as a lesson to us all.
"Your vote matters," he said. "Even in a race where it may seem there are hundreds of thousands of votes, your vote does matter."