Democratic candidate John Beard will ask for a recount in Iowa Senate district 28, where he trails Republican Mike Breitbach by 36 votes after the official canvass this week.
Senate district 28 covers all of Allamakee and Clayton Counties, the northern half of Fayette County, and most of Winneshiek County (including Decorah). Click here to view a district map.
On election night, results posted on the Iowa Secretary of State's Office websites indicated that Breitbach led Beard by 14,791 votes to 14,748.
After canvassing had been completed in three counties, Breitbach's lead had shrunk to 23 votes. Allamakee County completed its caucus yesterday. Speaking to me by telephone last night, Beard said that initially, it appeared that he gained another vote in Allamakee, bringing the margin to 22 votes. Then Allamakee County auditor Pam Benjegerdes found a box containing more than 80 ballots that supposedly had not been counted. Those ballots produced a net gain for Breitbach, so his lead is now 36 votes.
UPDATE: The latest numbers on the Secretary of State's website show 14,866 votes for Breitbach (50.02 percent), 14,830 for Beard (49.90 percent), and 25 write-ins.
Beard will ask for a recount in all four counties that are part of Senate district 28. Although recounts didn't change the outcome of two close Iowa Senate races in 2010, I think it makes sense to recount any election where the winner leads by just 0.1 percent of the votes cast. In some states that margin would lead to an automatic recount. Optical scanner machines are fairly accurate but can sometimes record undervotes where a human observer can see a mark indicating voter intent.
Win or lose, Beard performed extremely well in a district that contained 11,635 registered Democrats, 14,450 Republicans, and 15,715 no-party voters as of November 1. Iowa Republicans had expected an easy win in this open seat.
Democrats are guaranteed to hold 26 Iowa Senate seats during the next session, Republicans 22 seats. The recount in Senate district 28 will determine whether Democrats lead 26-23 or 27-22. Senate district 22 in the suburbs west of Des Moines will be filled in a December 11 special election.