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We have told you about the race for Iowa House District 81 before. Multiple times. And while we are told answers will be coming this week, it’s nearly one month since Election Day and those answers still haven’t been provided.

Conservative Republican Luana Stoltenberg was the winner after Election Day by 29 votes. But the county discovered it failed to count some absentee ballots. And by some, I mean hundreds. And by hundreds, I mean 400-something.

Somehow, 400-some ballots just flat out didn’t get counted. Whoops.

When those ballots were counted, the Democrat jumped ahead and “won” by six votes.

The Scott County Auditor is not a Democrat, so this isn’t some partisan attack. But after 2020, mistakes like this simply could not happen in 2022.

Stoltenberg was originally told that they “found” these ballots and they hadn’t been counted. The Secretary of State’s Office and the local auditor both said the ballots were legal, so we asked to see images of each of these absentee ballots showing proper legal markings for them. Haven’t seen a single image.

We also asked the auditor for copies of ALL election results beginning with the count from Election Night and each recount thereafter.

Here’s what I can’t figure out…we were told there were “approximately 470 absentee ballots were received and accepted” but not counted.

I can’t figure out how that number was “approximate.” If they know how many absentee ballots were returned and accepted, and they know how many absentee ballots were counted, shouldn’t that have been an exact number?

Something like “it was determined that precisely 473 absentee ballots…were not counted.” Not “approximately 470.” I mean, in this case, was it 470 ballots, or was it 477? Because in a six-vote race, it doesn’t take a lot of fraudulent ballots to flip the result.

Maybe these “approximately 470” ballots were perfectly legal. Maybe there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for how a batch of “approximately 470” ballots didn’t get counted.

But the benefit of the doubt doesn’t exist in 2022 when it comes to election errors. The proof must be presented. These “approximately 470” ballots should still be in or with their original envelopes. I believe that is required by state law.

So let’s see the envelopes — properly marked. All 470-some.

By the way, I did some research. It turns out the 470 number was “approximate.” Results posted on Nov. 8 at 9:54 p.m. said there were 22,874 absentee ballots counted. After the mystery ballots were counted, absentee ballots bumped up to 23,362 — an increase of 488.

So if the auditor’s office knew how many legal absentee ballots had been turned in, how did it not know the exact number of ballots that hadn’t been counted was 488? Eighty-five of these ballots contained votes for Iowa House District 81.

Stoltenberg gained 25 votes. Combined with her 29-vote victory, that gave her a 54-vote lead. Cooper, though, received an additional 60 votes. Sixty. Right on the nose. Nice, round number.

Mistakes happen. I get it. Everyone is entitled to make a few. But in a situation like this, it is incumbent upon those responsible to provide the most transparency possible. Election officials don’t get to “tell” us the uncounted ballots were all legal. They have to prove it. They have to show us.

It’s the old “trust, but verify” approach made famous by Ronald Reagan.

There must be an explanation for how 488 ballots didn’t get counted and why they didn’t know the exact number of the uncounted ballots right away.

The Scott County Auditor, Kerri Tompkins, told us there were no ballots “found.” Instead, she said, she requested the administrative recount because she was not sure what ballots were not counted on election night.

“All of the legal ballots were in the custody of the ASVP Board, however the concern was if the machine counted all of them,” she said. “Therefore, I do not know if and/or which ballots may have/have not been counted on election night. There were no new ballots found. Again, I could not confirm all legal ballots were counted via the machine.”

A state senator from a different part of Iowa wrote about the incident in a newsletter. They wrote:

“Last week I reported that in Davenport, a Republican candidate for the Iowa House won by 24 votes. That outcome has now been reversed. A number of absentee ballots were discovered that gave the Democrat candidate the lead.”

So we weren’t the only ones under the impression these ballots were “found.”

If it all seems very confusing, that’s because it is. The only answer in this situation is complete and total transparency. Iowans deserve to know exactly what happened, how it happened and what will be put in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.


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