Attorneys for Rita Hart, the Democrat who lost Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District race by six votes, claimed on Dec. 22 that they found enough uncounted ballots to reverse the election outcome.
If those 22 ballots are included in the final total, Hart claims she will have defeated Miller-Meeks by nine votes. The Iowa State Board of Elections previously certified Miller-Meeks as the winner.
Miller-Meeks has 30 days to respond to Hart’s petition to the House, which was prepared by attorney Marc Elias of the Washington-based law firm Perkins Coie, which often represents Democratic campaign committees and candidates.
Although state governments conduct congressional elections and certify the winners, the Constitution makes the House and Senate the sole arbiters of who will be accepted as duly elected and seated.
The last time the House refused to seat a state-certified winner was in 1984 when the Democratic majority, led by Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, seated incumbent Rep. Frank McCloskey instead of Republican challenger Rick McIntyre for Indiana’s 8th District.
McIntyre had been certified by Indiana election officials as having defeated McCloskey, but the Democratic incumbent successfully petitioned O’Neill and House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Texas).
The ensuing scandal took months to resolve and became known in the media as the “Bloody Eighth” and prompted an era of bitter partisanship that continues to the present day.
The scandal was also the issue that a decade later catalyzed Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia to lead “Contract with America” Republicans to regain the House majority for the first time in 40 years.
Tensions are already rising in Iowa and in the House as a result of the Hart petition.
“It is crucial to me to make sure that this bipartisan review by the U.S. House is fair. Iowans deserve to know that the candidate who earned the most votes is seated,” Hart said.
Hart is seeking to win the election using “Washington’s hyper-partisan, dysfunctional atmosphere,” Miller-Meeks said. “Iowans have spoken. Rita Hart should listen, and she should trust and respect the decisions of Iowans.”
“If Rita Hart had any legal objections, she could have presented her case to an independent Iowa judicial panel for a remedy. She chose not to. By going to Nancy Pelosi to fix her election loss, Rita Hart is seeking a partisan political solution to a nonpartisan democratic process,” Grassley and Ernst said.
“This is a direct attack on Iowa’s elections system, to democracy in Iowa, and on Iowans themselves. This decision rubs Iowans the wrong way and for good reason. It takes the decision out of Iowans’ hands.
“If this certified election is overturned by politicians in Washington, the seat would have a cloud hanging over it that would undermine representation for Iowans in the Second Congressional District. Rita Hart should reconsider this undignified decision and allow the certified winner, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, to serve.”
Hart’s petition goes first to the House Committee on Administration, chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). A committee spokesman would say only that Miller-Meeks has a month to provide the panel with her response to the petition.