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Rogers requests total recount; Danielson clings to lead by 14 votes  (IA)
JENS MANUEL KROGSTAD    WCF Courier   13 November 2008

After an administrative recount of two precincts, Democratic incumbent Jeff Danielson’s lead over Republican challenger Walt Rogers has dwindled to a minuscule 14 votes.

The final tally before any recounts showed Danielson with a 17-vote lead in the Senate District 10 race. More than 32,000 votes were cast.

Rogers, behind by less than one vote per precinct, will request a district-wide hand recount.

“I have received many phone calls and e-mails from voters urging me to make sure their votes are counted. I think the best way to accomplish that is a complete recount,” Rogers said.

Despite the razor-thin margin, odds are against Rogers pulling ahead.

Black Hawk County elections manager Kyle Jensson said recounts usually result in a change of only a handful of votes.

The last state legislative race in Black Hawk County to be this close was in 1992, when Joe Kremer challenged a four-vote loss to Larry Murphy in Senate District 14, which at the time included Black Hawk, Buchanan and Fayette counties. The recount showed Murphy winning the race by 16 votes.

But the Rogers campaign said an unexpected twist in Wednesday’s administrative recount exemplified the need for a district-wide recount.

Officials recounted votes at Our Saviors Lutheran Church in Waterloo after they suspected one ballot may have been counted multiple times.

After tallying the votes, however, officials found seven fewer ballots than originally reported.

The result: Danielson lost four votes while Rogers lost one — a net gain of three votes for Rogers.

Officials don’t yet know what happened, and said they will try to determine the mistake’s origin.

“That kind of thing is exactly why we’re requesting a hand recount, so we can compare the results to the machine count,” said Justin Bartlett, Rogers’ campaign manager.

He said the pleasant surprise in the Waterloo precinct was offset by the recount at the polling place at University Book & Supply in Cedar Falls.

A recount was ordered there because a voting machine rejected 19 ballots.

Bartlett said they hoped to pick up a few votes because they won the precinct by about 10 percent.

Instead, election officials found each candidate won nine votes. The remaining ballot had no vote in the race.

Wednesday was the first time Rogers has picked up any votes since he saw a commanding 2,000-vote lead late on Election Day evaporate when the first batch of absentee ballots were counted. By the end of the night, Rogers clung to a 90-vote lead.

The next morning, 141 additional absentee ballots were counted and Rogers’ lead was trimmed to 65 votes.

Election officials counted 358 provisional ballots the following day, and Danielson pulled ahead by 13 votes.

On Monday, election officials counted a handful of absentee ballots, canvassed the vote, and increased Danielson’s lead again, this time to 17 votes.

The last recount in the county occurred in 2000 when Democrats swept three hard-fought Board of Supervisors seats.

Republicans at the time said they believed hundreds of voters had been disenfranchised because unclear voting instructions caused some ballots to not reflect voters’ true intentions.

This year’s race, though at times heated, has so far avoided such controversy.

The Rogers campaign said it has had no problems with a process led by Grant Veeder, the Democratic county auditor and election commissioner.

“I think we’ve seen the process has gone pretty smoothly so far,” Bartlett said. “I think (election officials) are doing a good job.”

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