***The Iowa Standard is an independent media voice. We rely on the financial support of our readers to exist. Please consider a one-time sign of support or becoming a monthly supporter at $5, $10/month - whatever you think we're worth! If you’ve ever used the phrase “Fake News” — now YOU can actually DO something about it! You can also support us on PayPal at [email protected] or Venmo at Iowa-Standard-2018 or through the mail at: PO Box 112 Sioux Center, IA 51250

All is well that ends well.

Well, maybe. It would have been nice if this roller coaster was a little less herky-jerky, but Republican Luana Stoltenberg has been proclaimed the winner in the Iowa House District 81 race.

“I’m not sure yet because it’s like I’m wondering if something is going to change any minute, but it’s an honor,” Stoltenberg said. “And it truly has been a test of faith, I’ll tell you that. Just leaving the results up to the Lord every day. One minute it is exciting and the next minute I’m wondering if somebody is going to call me and tell me they found something.”

The Iowa Standard has been all over this story for the last couple of weeks. Stoltenberg won by 29 votes on Election Day — according to the results posted by the Scott County Auditor. The Secretary of State’s website had Stoltenberg ahead by 25 votes.

But then there was a discovery that “approximately” 470 absentee ballots weren’t counted. Stoltenberg was told the ballots were found. Then the story was no ballots were found, they just weren’t counted.

The Iowa Standard raised a few questions about this — how was the number of uncounted ballots “approximate.” Election officials should know exactly how many absentee ballots were uncounted because totals are available.

We asked how that many ballots went uncounted and unnoticed.

The Scott County Auditor promised all the ballots were legally in custody the whole time, so we filed an open records request for video of all ballots. We wanted to see images of the ballots and/or envelopes that showed everyone was properly marked and indeed legal.

After including the mysterious ballots, Stoltenberg’s 25- or 29-vote win turned into a six-vote loss. That recount process took a few days, though, as there were problems with the machines and getting numbers to reconcile.

That triggered a candidate-requested recount. And after that, Stoltenberg was shown to have a nine-vote lead. Then, after Democrats on the recount board wanted to revisit absentee ballots, Stoltenberg’s lead grew to 11.

And that is where it ends. We hope.

What’s crazy is how the results were different after about every count.

But whatever. Kudos to Stoltenberg for pursuing the recount. She will be a strong conservative addition to the Iowa House.

And we’ll continue looking into this situation. Worth noting, the problem wasn’t Election Day ballots, but absentee ballots. The final recount results showed 45 fewer absentee ballots than what Scott County Auditor’s count had.

How does this happen? How do you happen to have 45 more absentee ballots in your results? After counting and recounting and recounting?

Stoltenberg said her county chair, Jeanita McNulty, sat with her every day. Stoltenberg had the rulebooks and read them and picked a counter, Diane Holst, who was “amazing.” In fact, Holst was on a national board on election integrity.

“If not for her, we never would’ve gotten through this,” Stoltenberg said. “She was incredible. We just would show up every day and support her and she and I would talk every night.”

Stoltenberg made it through the process without any formal support from the state party. The local chair, McNulty, was a key ally for Stoltenberg.

The results won’t be official until the vote is canvassed early next week.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here