State Auditor Rob Sand declares victory; more recounts are expected

By: and - November 10, 2022 5:48 pm

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate watches the recount of ballots at the Warren County Courthouse in Indianola Nov. 10, 2022, after machine errors prevented the county from reporting five precincts’ results on Election Night. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

State Auditor Rob Sand declared victory Thursday after recounts in two counties failed to erase his narrow lead in the 2022 midterm election, but more recounts are expected.

All 99 of Iowa’s counties are now reporting results from Tuesday’s election after recounts in Warren County and Des Moines County.

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office reported Sand with just over 50% of the vote — about 2,600 more votes than Republican Todd Halbur, who had nearly 49.9%. The Associated Press had not projected a winner in the race, and Halbur has not conceded. The GOP candidate said Thursday he planned to request a full statewide recount because of the errors in reporting results in multiple counties so he and “the voters of Iowa will feel confident in these new verified results.”

“Over the course of days we have seen human errors, technical errors, process errors, and maybe even some blatant egregious errors that have happened to our votes across this state,” Halbur wrote in an email.

Candidates for state auditor Rob Sand, left, and Todd Halbur debate on “Iowa Press” Oct. 21, 2022 on Iowa PBS. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS video)

Sand has promoted himself as someone who hunts for bucks – as an everyman who hunts deer and as a state official who seeks to save taxpayers’ money. He said he was bowhunting Thursday in Madison County when he was notified he had won reelection.

“It would have been a little easier to have it called Tuesday night, but a win is a win,” Sand said in a telephone interview while field dressing a nine-point buck he shot that afternoon.

If results hold, Sand will be only Democratic incumbent to be reelected this year to statewide executive office in Iowa. Longtime Attorney General Tom Miller and state Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, both Democrats, lost their reelection bids. The Republican wave also knocked out the lone Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegation, Rep. Cindy Axne.

“We knew it was going to be a tough year, and with great candidates out there, we came up short in some spots. But people worked hard, and I’m just going to keep doing my job,” Sand said. “I have always been willing to work with anyone to serve Iowans, and that remains true. I don’t have any problem personally working with Republicans if that’s what I have to do to get things done for people.”

The results remain unofficial until votes are canvassed. Counties will also conduct post-election audits of the gubernatorial race and constitutional amendment ballot measure from a randomly selected precinct.

Sand held a lead of 0.3% Wednesday when Des Moines County and Warren County had not yet reported results. Technical errors kept the two counties from reporting full results Tuesday, and Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate demanded expedited recounts in both.

Pate attended the Warren County recount as an observer Thursday in Indianola. Five groups of two volunteers each fed thousands of ballots into voting machines. He said the recounts were necessary to reassure to voters that the system worked, just as the post-election audits do.

Pate’s office has worked throughout the election cycle to provide information on election integrity following claims like those of former President Donald Trump that election results in 2020 weren’t accurate. Holding immediate recounts, which are open to the public, when irregularities are found helps address those concerns, he said.

“So if it takes a little longer, it takes a little longer,” Pate said. “We want full transparency because we learned from two years ago, that we have to do so so people know what you’re doing so they’re not sitting there and having questioning thoughts of ‘Well, is it a bigger problem then they’re sharing with us?’”

Traci Vanderlinden, Warren County auditor, said issues that impacted over 2,000 ballots arose in five precincts as two machines were in test mode and three were not closed correctly.

Everything went well here today,” Vanderlinden said. “So the machines do work.”

About 800 ballots were affected by errors in Des Moines County, according to the auditor’s office. The recount came after an error prevented the precincts in question from transmitting electronic results after scanning the paper ballots.

Des Moines County and Warren County were the only places in Iowa holding recounts Thursday, but two other counties will hold recounts. Pate announced on Twitter that his office discovered an error in Scott County’s absentee ballot number tabulation, and is calling on the county to conduct an administrative recount.

Dallas County will hold a recount Monday of results from four precincts following a machine error that election officials say affects just four ballots.

Linn County also reported issues. The county’s election officials omitted a race for the county’s board of supervisors from ballots in one township. Additionally, the secretary of state’s office found that the county reported 600 more absentee ballots than had been received by their office at the time of polls closing – when ballots are due in order to be counted in Iowa under new voting laws.

The secretary of state’s office contacted Linn County and local election officials reuploaded and reviewed their election night results, correcting the error, according to a news release.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations. They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register's Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa's 4th District elections.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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