Failed Iowa Democratic congressional candidate Rita Hart is continuing to contest her lost election last fall to freshman Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. After a recount, Miller-Meeks was certified the winner by a mere six votes.
According to Politico reporting two weeks ago, the House Administration Committee run by Democrats gathered to deliberate about a challenge triggered by Hart under the complex Federal Contested Elections Act. Hart has continued to contest the race with claims 22 ballots were improperly rejected. Hart’s attorneys argue that, had the ballots been counted, the Democrat would have carried the southeastern Iowa district by nine votes.
“We are glad to see the House Committee on Administration taking action towards ensuring that every legally-cast vote is counted in this race and that Iowans’ voices are heard,” the Hart campaign said in a statement to the political magazine.
Republicans have criticized Hart’s efforts to contest the race directly in the House of Representatives, circumventing legal avenues in Iowa. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi provisionally sat Miller-Meeks as the replacement for retired Democrat Rep. Dave Loebsack in January.
“The committee has yet to act on a request by Miller-Meeks to dismiss Hart’s contest,” Politico reported. “A formal refusal to dismiss is what would truly set an investigation into motion, opening up a lengthy discovery period during which the campaigns can submit evidence and the committee could request ballots or even send staff into the southeastern Iowa district.”
The House of Representatives may determine its own membership, and may still remove Miller-Meeks from the lower chamber if the committee rules in Hart’s favor.
The mechanism Hart used to challenge the result in Iowa’s 2nd congressional district had not been triggered since 1984, in a race between Democratic incumbent Frank McCloskey and Republican challenger Richard McIntyre in Indiana. At the time, House Speaker Tip O’Neill, presiding over a wider majority than Pelosi’s five-seat buffer today, denied the state-certified winner, McIntyre, the seat until the process played out.
After the Government Accountability Office re-examined the race and declared McCloskey the winner by four votes, the Democratic House voted the incumbent member of their caucus would retain the seat. Republicans fear the same chain of events could repeat this year.