A state judge in New York could rule this week on the results of one of two challenged House races from the 2020 election whose outcomes will determine how narrow the Democratic majority is in the 117th Congress.
New York Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte has been reviewing as many as 2,500 disputed ballots in the 22nd District, which takes in a slice of upstate New York that stretches from Binghamton to Utica. The contest pitched Democrat Anthony Brindisi, who held the seat until Jan. 3, against Republican Claudia Tenney, who served one term before being unseated by Brindisi in 2018.
Tenney currently leads a preliminary count by 29 votes out of more than 300,000 cast, though the election has yet to be certified by New York state election officials. Certification could come after the court ruling, but further appeals are likely.
The other contested election is in Iowa and is now being considered in Congress by the House Administration Committee. The state certified Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks as the winner by six votes, and, because of that, Speaker Nancy Pelosi allowed her to be seated provisionally when the House convened Jan. 3. The results are being challenged by Democrat Rita Hart, who says some valid votes weren’t counted.
The results of these disputes are especially important because Democrats hold a 222-211 majority after Republicans gained seats in the 2020 elections. Assuming no vacancies, 218 votes are needed to control the House and pass legislation.
The Administration Committee is reviewing the election contest notice filed by Hart in late December, according to a statement from the panel’s chairwoman, Zoe Lofgren(D-Calif.), which noted that Miller-Meeks has until late January to file a response. “The Committee intends to closely review filings from both campaigns, as the law requires.”
The House rules package (H. Res. 8) adopted Jan. 4 authorized the House Administration Committee to spend money on expenses relating to election contests.
The 2nd District, which includes much of southeastern Iowa, was represented by Democrat Dave Loebsack, who didn’t seek re-election.
Republicans have said any attempt to unseat Miller-Meeks would lead to a partisan battle on the scale of the 1985 dispute over Indiana’s 8th District, known for decades as the Bloody Eighth. That dispute dragged on for nearly four months before the Democratic House majority voted to seat Democrat Frank McCloskey, who trailed in earlier vote counts.
The upstate New York election could also eventually be contested in the House, which has ultimate authority under the Constitution to determine which members are seated.
Tenney has maintained a lead throughout most of the counting process, and her campaign has said she’ll prevail. Tenney spokesman Sean Kennedy said the campaign remains “confident that once the contested ballots are reviewed by the court and the facts accurately applied according to the law, Claudia will be declared the winner, certified, seated, and head to Congress to serve all the people of New York’s 22nd District.”
Brindisi has called for a thorough review to make sure all votes are counted. “There are hundreds of ballots still to be determined and as those ballots are considered in the coming weeks the balance in this election will continue to change,” campaign spokesman Luke Jackson said in a Jan. 3 statement.
Disputed ballots include those thrown out by local election officials that Brindisi’s campaign says should be counted. The case has dragged on as local officials faced numerous problems counting ballots and were ordered by the judge to correct errors before the judicial process could even begin. The problems included lost sticky notes that explained why officials decided not to count some ballots.
The contested New York seat was declared vacant when the 117th Congress convened. Brindisi’s former congressional staff continues to work out of a Capitol Hill office to deal with casework and constituent requests but not legislation.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org