“…Rita Hart for Iowa’s first priority is to make sure that all legally cast votes are counted and Iowans’ voices are heard.”
The above quote from Monday (Nov 16) is from a campaign spokesperson (spox) for Rita Hart for Iowa, a candidate in the Iowa 2nd congressional district who trails her opponent Dr. Marianette Miller-Meeks by 47 votes.
Hart is the Democrat nominee in the open 2nd congressional district and if Miller-Meeks holds on to win, it will be yet another flip of a Democrat-held seat in the House for the 117th Congress which saw House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s majority greatly reduced from its 235 after the 2018 election to as low as 220-225, as 9 races remain “too close to call”.
Comments here on McHenry County Blog, in social media and the mainstream media downright demand Republican 14th district candidate Jim Oberweis to concede defeat to Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, especially after the Associated Press (AP) “called” the race and named Underwood the projected winner.
As I observe these comments, one must ask “What’s the hurry?”
Whether it’s shock that Oberweis defied expectations and made the IL-14 race much closer than any of the “experts”, including the respected ratings services like Cook Political Report or Sabato’s Crystal Ball, who both had IL-14 rated “Likely Democrat”, or one of the so-called “rock stars” among Democrats elected in 2018 came close to losing her seat at the hands of Jim Oberweis, many people, thinking the unofficial returns to date are enough, want Oberweis to end his bid prior to the official certification on December 4th by conceding.
As I’ve stated multiple times, conceding is a courtesy when the defeated candidate privately congratulate the winner, say “the people have spoken” and wish them well. It also sends the message the defeated candidate accepts the vote count and is NOT going to challenge the results of the election.
Jim Oberweis has no intention of doing that nor should he for both legal and political reasons. This article focuses on the legal reason.
Illinois Law Allows Defeated Candidate Discovery Recount
Under Illinois Election Law, a defeated candidate who has 95% or more of the votes of the top vote getter, the candidate can call for a “discovery recount” of up to 25% of the precincts within a jurisdiction where candidate ran for in election.
Jim Oberweis will likely be over 98% once the 14th congressional district votes in the 7 counties stop being counted.
The 14th congressional district has 462 precincts across 7 counties, so the math of 462 divided by four and dropping the fraction gives up to 115 precincts the Oberweis campaign can seek a discovery recount.
As the Election law is clear, a discovery recount cannot overturn the results of the election. But it allows the candidate who’s trailing the opportunity to review the returns, equipment and the ballots in order to gather enough evidence to take to a circuit judge in order to order a full recount. The ballots are recounted through the tabulation machines and variance between initial returns and recounted returns will be assessed.
The process for the discovery recount does not start until all the ballots are counted and each county issues the “Official Canvass” for the General Election of 2020. Today, November 17, is the last day a local election authority can accept delivery of a vote-by-mail (VBM) ballot postmarked by November 3.
It’s also the last day for a “challenged” VBM ballot and all provisional ballots to be “cured” of any defect the voter has had the opportunity to correct since Election Day.
After today, the county clerks have through next Tuesday, November 24, to canvass the election results in their county, which includes the county’s electoral board (clerk, circuit clerk, state’s attorney or their designees) to meet and officially canvass the unofficial returns, thus making them legally official, and ready to be recounted if need be.
After the 24th, for elective office outside the jurisdiction of the county and for all judicial races, the Illinois State Board of Elections will “officially” declare the winners, including for each congressional office.
Based on the State Board’s declaration, the winner will be seated in the respective office won at the proper date, which for Congress is January 3, 2021.
The discovery recount window is between the issuance of the official canvass and the December 4th certification date, which is 10 days from November 24th.
So how will the Oberweis campaign determine which 115 precincts to be recounted? Educated guess, the precincts which had the largest percentage of VBM and provisional ballots included in the returns starting in Lake County, and all those metrics will be available once the Canvass is issued.
Based on unofficial returns, IL-14 a Biden district
Four years ago, Donald Trump won the IL-14 over Hillary Clinton, and IL-14 was known as a “Trump district” and one of many reasons the IL-14 was targeted after Underwood flipped it in 2018.
Going from unofficial returns and the help of Noah Walch, a volunteer for state Representative-elect Janet Yang Rohr, Joe Biden won 5 of the 7 counties within the boundaries of the 14th congressional district.
Mr. Walch used unofficial returns at the precinct-level and counted the votes within each precinct for president. In his analysis, President Trump won McHenry County (within the 14th and overall), and Biden won the 14th district portions of DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties.
Across the district, excluding Kendall County, Biden/Harris won IL-14 by fewer than 10,000 votes.
Kendall County does not post unofficial returns at the precinct level, so that county’s precinct-level numbers will be available when the Canvass is published.
Taking the numbers for each county, comparing the performance of Underwood and Oberweis to their respective presidential candidates, it can determined which candidate overperformed and undeperformed the top of the respective ticket in six of the 7 counties, as this grid shows:
For the overperform/underperform (O/U) metric, simply the number of votes a congressional candidate received compared to the presidential ticket of the same party. A negative number means the congressional candidate “underperformed” their presidential candidate.
With the exception of McHenry County, Underwood underperformed Biden/Harris. With the exception of DeKalb County, Oberweis overperformed President Trump and Vice President Pence.
The county missing from the O/U metric raises questions in and of itself. As former IL-14 candidate and current Kendall County Republican Chairman James Marter said, then-candidate Donald Trump carried Kendall County in 2016.
Not so in 2020, according to unofficial returns through election night (and Kendall has not posted additional returns since), Joe Biden beat President Trump in Kendall’s 87 precincts by 2,879 votes:
- Biden/Harris: 31,394
- Trump/Pence: 28,515
Of Kendall’s 87 precincts, 26 are outside of IL-14 in IL-11 and those 26 include the city of Aurora, but per the above, chart, Oberweis only won Kendall County by 73 votes through election night.
Without seeing the district-level presidential number in Kendall County, that is underperformance in and of itself. Unless Oberweis underperformed President Trump, appears Biden won the IL-14 portion of Kendall County,, too.
Going further down the ballot, Oberweis’ open state senate district was flipped two weeks ago when Democrat state Representative Karina Villa defeated Republican Jeanette Ward by less than 2,000 votes.
Ward only won in Kendall County by 263 votes, a similar underperformance to Oberweis in what was tagged as a very Republican county.
In addition to Lake County, which saw the most dramatic swing in VBM votes for Underwood, Oberweis’ campaign will likely be looking at Kendall County and will likely push for some of those precincts to be part of the discovery recount.