Democrat Rita Hart Challenges Iowa Election Results in Congress

  • State certified Republican Miller-Meeks the winner by six votes
  • Hart campaign says 22 legal votes went uncounted

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Democrat Rita Hart filed a “notice of contest” with the House on Tuesday, seeking congressional intervention to reverse her defeat in last month’s open-seat election for Iowa’s 2nd District.

Hart lost the Nov. 3 election to Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks by six votes out of nearly 400,000 cast, according to results certified by state officials on Nov. 30.

The official notice of her request means Miller-Meeks could be seated when Congress convenes on Jan. 3 but forced to step aside later if Hart prevails, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“Nothing is more important than ensuring every Iowan has their vote counted,” Hart said in a statement. A full review of uncounted ballots, she said, will make it “clear that I have won this election.”

Hart’s notice of contest, filed by top Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias, identified 22 ballots it said were legally cast but excluded from the certified results, which would make Hart the winner. She also claimed that thousands more votes were left in question by a state recount.

A Rita Hart campaign ad

Republicans vowed to fight the bid to overturn the state-certified result, which drew rebukes from across the GOP. Hart is “asking Nancy Pelosi to steal the election and disenfranchise Iowa voters,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) tweeted.

Miller-Meeks’ victory flipped the southeastern Iowa district, which has been represented by retiring Rep. Dave Loebsack (D) since 2007. Miller-Meeks, a state lawmaker, previously ran and lost to Loebsack in 2008, 2010, and 2014.

Next Step

The election contest will be reviewed initially by the Committee on House Administration, chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

The committee’s ranking minority member, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), warned Democrats that supporting Hart’s challenge would set up a reprise of a bitter battle in 1985 over a contested election for a congressional district in Indiana, known for decades as the “Bloody Eighth.”

“I’m hoping my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will think long and hard if they want a repeat of the `Bloody Eighth’ because there will come a time when the shoe is on the other foot,” Davis said on Dec. 17, before Hart’s official notice of contest was filed. “The federal contest of 1985 eroded public trust in our elections and undermined the integrity of our election process.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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