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The Contest Goes On In Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District

March 10, 2021 by TWN Staff
Republican State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (left) and Democrat Rita Hart (right) are facing off in a nail-biter to represent Iowa's 2nd Congressional District. As it stands now, the race could be decided by fewer than 10 votes.

WASHINGTON – The contest to determine who will ultimately represent Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District will continue for at least a little while longer.

On Wednesday, the Committee on House Administration voted 6-3 to table Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ motion to dismiss Democrat Rita Hart’s challenge to the Republican’s state-certified victory.

And that means it could be another month — or longer — before the contest has an outcome.

In November, Iowa’s state Board of Canvass certified Miller-Meeks the winner in the 2nd Congressional District after a recount saw her 47-vote lead steadily dwindle to just six votes, 196,964 to 196,958.

But Hart challenged the results, arguing that at least 22 legally-cast votes had yet to be counted. When those ballots are counted, her campaign says, she will be ahead by nine votes.

Additionally, the campaign argues, thousands of potential under- and overvotes have not been examined for voter intent and Rita Hart has requested a full review of these ballots to make sure every vote is counted.

In asking the committee to table the motion, Chair Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said she believes Hart has raised, “specific, credible allegations that enough validly cast ballots were wrongly excluded from the certified totals to reverse the elections outcome.”

She said tabling the motion was the only way to give the committee more time to consider the merits of the case.

But the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., disagreed, contending the body “should not be moving forward with overturning our colleagues state certified election.”

“This committee is calling into question every member of congress elected under Iowa state law,” Davis said.

He then went on to question Hart’s motives for filing a complaint with the House committee rather than hitting it out in state court.

“Frankly, this situation leads me to believe her lawyers knew she could not win under Iowa law,” he said. “Instead, she’s choosing to pursue a partisan process in the House where Democratic members of Congress, not Iowa voters, will determine their representation in Congress.”

“The public’s distrust in our election process is already higher than it’s been in a long time,” Davis said. “The partisanship in this House is the highest is has been since I came to Congress, and frankly, since I was working as a staffer here in 1997. This committee is only contributing to this partisanship.

“This committee, which has oversight of the United States Capitol Police, the Sergeant-at-Arms, the Architect of the Capitol, and the chief administrative officer, has not held a single hearing on the issues of Jan. 6 and the vulnerability of our Capitol Complex,” he continued. “Instead, we’re moving forward to overturn the election of one of our Republican colleagues.”

“The priorities of this committee are backwards,” Davis added. “While running for election is partisan in nature, administering and determining the outcome of elections should never be; it will be one of the greatest mistakes this House makes to take up an election contest with a candidate who sidestepped the courts and instead turned to a partisan process in the House because they knew they could not win any other way.”

But Lofgren wouldn’t budge.

She noted that the House has never dismissed an election case solely because the contestant declined to file a state court case.

“To be sure, the House has required contestants to take full advantage of state law procedures before the election, or before the state officially certifies a House election,” she said. “Furthermore, the Federal Contested Election Act, which governs this case, holds only four defenses can justify dismissing a contest at this early stage.

“A contestant’s failure to exhaust state court remedies is not one of those four defenses,” she said.

In December, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she would seat Miller-Meeks along with the rest of the members and members-elect of the 117th Congress. But Pelosi’s spokesperson, Drew Hammill, said the review of Iowa’s election results would continue and could affect her status.

Following the committee hearing, Hart’s Iowa campaign manager, Zach Meunier, said the campaign is satisfied the committee is “taking the next step towards ensuring that every legally-cast vote is counted in this race and that all Iowans’ voices are heard.

“Every legal voter in this country has a right to have their ballot counted and the remedy here is clear — count the ballots,” Meunier said.

Mike Berg, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, held a different opinion.

“Rita Hart should immediately cease her undemocratic efforts to usurp the will of Iowa voters and election officials. Iowa voters should decide Iowa elections, not Nancy Pelosi and her socialist colleagues,” he said.

If the election withstands this final challenge, Miller-Meeks’ margin of victory would amount to the closest U.S. House race since 1984 and the tightest in Iowa since 1916.

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