Democrat Rita Hart’s challenge to her six-vote defeat last fall in Iowa’s 2nd District will continue after House lawmakers voted along party lines Wednesday to gather more information before deciding the next step in the case.
“None of us can state with confidence which candidate won this election,” House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren said after the committee voted 6-3 to postpone its determination on a motion by the declared winner, Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, to dismiss Hart’s complaint.
Miller-Meeks has been representing the district since January after Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would be seated “provisionally.”
Hart asked the House, which has the authority to determine whether members should be seated, to count 22 ballots she contends were wrongfully excluded when state officials tallied the results.
“At least twenty-two Iowans’ legally-cast ballots still have not been counted due to a string of errors,” Hart campaign manager Zach Meunier said in a statement. “We are glad to see the House Committee on Administration taking the next step towards ensuring that every legally-cast vote is counted in this race.”
Lofgren noted Wednesday that the margin that separated the two candidates was among the closest in House history and that Hart had raised “specific, credible” allegations about enough ballots to overturn the election.
“It should not be surprising that any candidate under these circumstances, with a margin this close, would seek to exercise their rights under the law to contest the results,” the California Democrat said.
Republicans argued that bipartisan panels of Iowa officials have already vetted and certified the results. They said Hart’s petition is an effort to bypass their determination in favor of a partisan process in the House.
“By moving forward with this complaint, this committee is calling into question every member of Congress elected under Iowa law, and frankly each of us too,” House Administration ranking member Rodney Davis said. “It would be one of the greatest mistakes this House makes to take up an election contest where the candidate sidestepped the courts and instead turned to a partisan process in the House because they knew they could not win any other way.”
Lofgren said the committee’s vote was simply a procedural step.
“We are not prejudging this case,” she said. “Rather we are agreeing to judge it as the Constitution requires us to do.”
Lofgren said the committee would send both candidates a set of identical questions about the procedures, legal principles and timelines they should follow as they review the case. The results would be made public, she said, but it was unclear when the committee would take up the case again.