On November 3rd, now-Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican, narrowly defeated Democrat Rita Hart by less than 50 votes in an election of 400,000. After the official recount, Miller-Meeks still came out on top, with a 6 vote margin, and was sworn in as Iowa’s 2nd Congressional Districts’ representative.
While America is almost 4 months out from the election, and Congresswoman Miller-Meeks is currently serving in the House, her challenger remains adamant that she is the rightful winner of the election, and is pushing forward with legal challenges.
Hart and he team argue 22 votes were improperly disqualified from the tally – most of the votes were for her. For whatever reason, whether it be a signature mismatch, improperly filled out forms, etc. the votes were tossed by poll workers and thus Hart argues the results should be disregarded. Because the recount only counted votes verified as legal in the original tally, the 22 ballots in question were again excluded. When the margin of victory is half a dozen, every vote matters even more.
Claiming a lack of time, Hart did not pursue retribution through the courts, rather her campaign is using another legal avenue: Congress. Under Iowa law, Hart was required to file her dispute in state court within two days after the recount totals were announced. A panel of Iowa judges would then hear her arguments, and would render a verdict by December 8th. Instead, she’s seeking a hearing from the Democrat held House of Representatives.
Under the Federal Contested Elections Act, Hart can ask the House of Representatives to review the election results, in this case determine whether the 22 votes in question were in fact lawfully cast, and possibly overturn the election entirely. It would require a majority vote in the House, which is increasingly unlikely as Democrats hold a slim 219-211 majority. All it would take is four Democrats voting against party lines for Rep. Miller Meeks to keep her seat.
According to the Wall Street Journal, three Democratic Congressmen, Dean Phillips (MN), Elissa Slotkin (MI), and Josh Gottheimer (NJ), have signaled a reluctance to unseat their colleague.
Rep. Phillips took to Twitter on Monday, urging Democrats to halt their efforts for the good of the country. “Losing a House election by six votes is painful for Democrats,” he wrote. “But overturning it in the House would be even more painful for America. Just because a majority can, does not mean a majority should.”
Before the full House can vote, the Committee on House Administration is tasked with investigating Harts allegations. They then will give a recommendation to the House at large on whether Hart should be seated, who then votes on the measure. The committee could decide by as early as Monday whether these votes were unproperly discarded, at least that’s what Speaker Nancy Pelosi believes.
“I think it’s Monday they’ll make a determination as to if these challenges meet certain criteria to go forward,” Pelosi stated.
“Now, if I wanted to be unfair, I wouldn’t have seated the Republican from Iowa,” the Speaker added. “Because that was my right on the opening day. I would have just said ‘You’re not seated.’ And that would have been my right as speaker to do. But we didn’t want to do that. We just said, ‘let’s just go through this process.'”
Republican lawmakers have criticized Hart’s decision to bypass the courts and take her case directly to Congress, where Democrats hold an advantage. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Hart “didn’t go through the court system, which was the appropriate place to go. She said I’m taking it directly to the House because that’s where she thinks she can get the outcome she desires.” Hart would have been able to challenge the decision in the House even if she lost in court, but she never officially ventured down that path.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined his colleague from the other end of the Capitol. “Speaker Pelosi and Washington Democrats have set out trying to overturn the result from here in Congress,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday.
“The voters of Iowa’s 2nd District spoke in November. Their votes were counted. Then recounted. The outcome was certified. There was the opportunity to present complaints in court, but the defeated Democrat passed it up,” McConnell added. “The process played out in the way that every liberal in America spent November, December, and January insisting was beyond question. But there’s a catch. This time, the Republican won and the Democrat lost.”
Republicans are drawing a parallel between Democrats’ response to Trump’s assertion of voter fraud and irregularities, and Harts’ claim of improper vote disqualification.
McConnell along with Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, and Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Earnest sent a joint letter to “all companies who support free and fair elections” arguing businesses who swore to withhold donations to Republicans who supported challenging the 2020 general election results should do the same to Democrats challenging Iowa’s 2nd district’s results.
They call Democrats moves challenging the results “an unacceptable to undermine a legitimate democratic process.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), chair of the House Administration Committee called Republicans pushback against the investigation a “coordinated public campaign” to discredit efforts to resolve election questions.
“Republicans know how this process works – over the past 90 years the Congress has adjudicated, in a bipartisan manner, more than a hundred contested elections cases filed by Republicans and Democrats alike in races nowhere near as close as Iowa’s Second,” she said. “With that history in mind, it is profoundly disappointing some of my Republican colleagues are now painting this process as somehow nefarious.” She likened Republican rhetoric to that which she claims caused the Capitol Hill riot on January 6th.
A public Democrat effort to remove a Republican from Congress months after the election could act as a rallying point for the GOP base as we near the 2022 midterm election. With Democrat’s narrow 4 seat lead in the House and tie in the Senate, Republican efforts to paint the Democrats as power grabbers who will do anything to maintain control could push the GOP into the majority, effectively freezing the Biden administration’s legislative agenda.