A View from the Recount Room

22 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2021 Last revised: 18 Mar 2021

See all articles by Todd E. Pettys

Todd E. Pettys

University of Iowa - College of Law

Date Written: January 27, 2021


The 2020 race to represent Iowa’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives proved to be one of the closest federal elections in modern American history. When the race went to a recount, I had the honor of serving on the recount board for Johnson County, the second-largest county in the district. In Part I of this Essay, I briefly explain how we performed the recount. I particularly focus on the role that tabulating machines played in our work, a matter that proved to be contentious districtwide between the two campaigns’ leaders and on which the press’s reporting was sometimes inaccurate. In Part II, I turn to Iowa laws that require recount boards to disregard votes that appear on ballots bearing certain types of markings, as well as laws that limit the types of ballot markings that recount boards may count as valid votes. Using examples from ballots we encountered in Johnson County, I argue that some of these laws should be amended and others should be abandoned altogether.

Keywords: election, recount, recount board, identifying mark, write in, prescribed mark, absentee, congress, house of representatives

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K19, K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Pettys, Todd E., A View from the Recount Room (January 27, 2021). Iowa Law Review Online, Forthcoming, U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2021-03, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3773936 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3773936

Todd E. Pettys (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States
319-335-6814 (Phone)
319-335-9098 (Fax)

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