U.S. House Administration Committee considers contested election in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District

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Rita Hart continues to challenge U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks for Iowa’s Second District seat, which Miller-Meeks won in the 2020 general election by six votes.

In the latest proceedings, the House Administration Committee postponed March 10 the disposition of Miller-Meeks’ motion to dismiss Hart’s contest of the election “until the Committee considers the merits of this contested election case.”

The Democratic majority of the committee voted to postpone the motion to dismiss the contest 6-3, along party lines.

“Such challenges [contests of elections] are not frequent, but they are regular and an expected part of our elections process. … Over the last 90 years, out of the hundreds of Congressional elections that occur each cycle, candidates have filed just over two election contests in the house per congress,” Chairperson U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said at the March 10 meeting.

Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis, R-Ill., said in a statement Feb. 19 that “we know every legal vote was counted in Iowa’s Second District because the votes were counted and recounted using a timely, transparent, and bipartisan process, and Miller-Meeks never trailed in any officially reported count.”

Lofgren disagreed.

“Hart has raised specific, credible allegations that enough validly cast ballots were wrongly excluded from the certified totals to reverse the election’s outcome,” Lofgren said March 10.

“This includes two ballots cast during curbside voting that were mistakenly excluded from the count. It is the committee’s constitutional duty to investigate all these claims. It should not be surprising that any candidate in these circumstances with a margin this close would seek to exercise their rights under the law to contest the results.”

Miller-Meeks’ campaign attorney Alan Ostergren said Hart’s case is weak.

“Her refusal to put her claims before neutral judges in Iowa tells us everything we need to know about the weakness of her case,” Ostergren said. “Hart ignored Iowa law during the recount and again when she failed to make her case before a contest court in Iowa.”

He continued: “Hart’s power quest is wrong and damages our electoral system.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference March 11 that it was possible that Hart could unseat Miller-Meeks.

“Of course! Of course!” Pelosi said. “I respect the work of the committee. … They were following my, as I read it, the requirements of the law as to how you go forward. And how you go forward is the path you’re on, and we’ll see where that takes us.”

The Iowa State Canvassing Board certified the results of the race, and Secretary of State Paul Pate said in a tweet Nov. 30, 2020 that the official result in the district race was 196,964-196,958 in favor of Miller-Meeks.

“The general election and recounts were conducted in a bipartisan manner,” Pate told The Center Square in an emailed statement March 12.

“There are 12 Republican county auditors and 12 Democratic county auditors in the Second District,” Pate continued. “Bipartisan teams of precinct election officials staffed the polling places and processed the absentee ballots.”

Pate noted the recount boards in all 24 counties were bipartisan and included one representative from each campaign.

“The bipartisan State Canvassing Board officially certified Mariannette Miller-Meeks as the winner,” Pate said. “The will of Iowa voters should not be overturned by partisan Washington, D.C. politicians seeking to change the rules of the election after it has already been certified.”

Attempts by The Center Square to reach Hart’s staff went unanswered.

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