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U.S. House To Provisionally Seat Miller-Meeks As Challenge of 2nd Congressional District Proceeds

mariannette miller-meeks
John Pemble/IPR
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to seat Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks as the next representative for Iowa's 2nd Congressional District, even as a challenge of the results is pending.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she plans to provisionally seat Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks as the next representative in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, despite a pending challenge of the outcome of the race. The ophthalmologist from Ottumwa is slated to be sworn in with the rest of the 117thCongress on Jan. 3, but whether she’ll retain the seat remains unsettled: her competitor, former Democratic state Sen. Rita Hart, is asking the House to conduct a full hand recount of the results.

In November, state officials certified results following a districtwide recount showing Miller-Meeks had won the southeast Iowa seat by a mere six votes. But Hart has appealed that outcome with the Committee on House Administration, claiming that not all ballots were properly tallied.

A spokesman for Pelosi says the appeal process will continue in order to ensure every vote was counted. Her decision to provisionally seat Miller-Meeks won’t directly impact those proceedings.

In a statement Wednesday, Miller-Meeks’ campaign said she has submitted her resignation from the Iowa Senate to Gov. Kim Reynolds, effective Jan. 2.

“It has been one of the great honors of my life to have been elected to the Iowa Senate and serve the people of District 41. I look forward to working on behalf of all of the people in the 2nd Congressional District as their new U.S. representative,” Miller-Meeks said, according to a campaign release.

Hart meanwhile maintains that not all legally cast votes have been counted. In her detailed filing with the Committee on House Administration, Hart’s legal team identified 22 ballots they argue were erroneously excluded from the count, and if tallied, would push Hart over the edge.

She also points to thousands of undervotes and overvotes that were never examined by hand, some of which could have been misread by voting machines.

“Twenty-two voters in Iowa’s Second Congressional District still have not had their legally-cast votes counted and thousands of other voters have not had their ballots examined. That is why I have asked a bipartisan committee in the House for a full recount and I look forward to a complete review of the election,” Hart said in a written statement. “Iowans deserve to know that they will be represented by the candidate who received the most votes in this race. A review of the uncounted ballots in this election proves that I am that candidate.”

Hart’s decision to not first plead her case in state court has proved controversial, drawing criticism from her opponent, Republican leaders and some of the state’s newspaper editorial boards. But Hart, and a retired judge, have argued that the process outlined under state law doesn’t grant near enough time for a full review of the race and some county auditors and state lawmakers have called for changes to the law.

Hart instead reasoned that the only way to ensure every ballot was examined was to take her case to the Democratically-controlled House, in a process outlined under the Federal Contested Elections Act of 1969.

Under federal law, Congress is the final judge of the election of its members. It will be up to the Committee on House Administration to conduct its own review of the results, a process which may take months and could include examining ballots and conducting its own recount. The committee will ultimately make a recommendation to the full House, which can decide the issue by a simple majority vote.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter