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Political News

Political Tensions Grow As Hart Moves Ahead With Challenge Of Election Outcome In 2nd District Race

GOP Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks took office in January after the Iowa State Board of Canvassers certified her victory over Democratic candidate Rita Hart. She won by just six votes out of the nearly 400,000 total votes cast, following a recount of the entire district.
Tom Williams
/
CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images
GOP Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks took office in January after the Iowa State Board of Canvassers certified her victory over Democratic candidate Rita Hart. She won by just six votes out of the nearly 400,000 total votes cast, following a recount of the entire district.

Republican officials across the country are increasingly criticizing Democrat Rita Hart’s challenge of the election result in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, characterizing it as an effort to thwart the will of the voters in a race which state officials say she lost by six votes. But Hart’s legal team maintains her case is about ensuring that all legally cast votes are counted and that the right candidate holds the southeast Iowa seat.

Political tensions are on the rise as the case challenging Republican Congresswoman Mariannette-Miller-Meeks’ six-vote victory moves forward in the U.S. House. This week some House Democrats called for the congressional review to end while Republican groups in Iowa and across the country are pressing vulnerable members of Congress on whether they’ll vote to overrule a state-certified election, a prospect which some moderates say could undermine their own reelection efforts, according to a Politico report.

Alan Ostergren, the attorney representing Miller-Meeks, acknowledged on a call with reporters Monday he was seeing “a lot of commentary” on the case.

“At the end of the day, it will be up to the majority party in the Congress as to whether or not they want to take a vote that ignores Iowa law,” Ostergren said. “Or do they just simply want to say, ‘you know what it hurts, this loss hurts. Six votes is a difficult loss to accept, but we're going to have an election next year and let's start working on that’.”

Last December, Hart filed an election contest with the Committee on House Administration, calling for a full hand recount of the race. A bipartisan panel of state officials had unanimously certified the outcome, declaring Miller-Meeks won by a mere six votes, following a districtwide recount.

The committee is in the early stages of the review process, with both sides having filed their initials briefs Monday. Both parties face a March 29 deadline to respond to the other side’s briefs.

On Tuesday Iowa 1st District Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson led 124 of her colleagues in the House and Senate in penning a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressing their “outrage” and seeking to equate Hart’s challenge of the outcome with the claims of widespread election fraud in the 2020 presidential election peddled by President Donald Trump and his allies, claims which are baseless.

“[W]e are astounded by your hypocrisy as the Speaker to support an investigation into this free and fair election while simultaneously claiming voter fraud does not exist nationally,” the letter reads. “If election security concerns are unwarranted, as you claim, then there is certainly no reason for the Committee on House Administration to be moving forward with such an outrageous request to unseat a legitimately elected Congresswoman.”

In fact, Hart’s campaign has not alleged widespread fraud or willful misconduct, but argue that legal votes were left out of the tally due to election worker error, and unlike President Trump and his allies, she seeks to have lawful votes counted, not disqualified.

“Contestant Hart initiated this contested election case to vindicate the promise of our democratic system: that the representatives who serve us have been selected by the votes of their constituents, not the errors and caprices of election administrators,” reads the brief Hart’s attorney Marc Elias filed with the CHA on Monday.

Hart’s campaign maintains that her focus, and the heart of the election contest she filed with the CHA, is centered on making sure all legal votes are counted, including 22 ballots her legal team alleges were properly cast but incorrectly left out of the count.

“The fact that there’s going to be people who feel like…that they’re upset with the results of it can’t really change you from…from…from doing what democracy requires, which is to obtain the consent of the governed through elections,” Elias told reporters Tuesday. “And that means not only letting people vote but making sure their votes count.”

The CHA has broad latitude over the scope of the review, which could ultimately include deposing witnesses, gathering evidence and conducting a full recount. There is no set timeline for the process. Ultimately it will be up to the committee to issue a final report and recommendation, which can go before the full House for a simple majority vote.