A U.S. House committee will hold off on deciding whether to dismiss a contest of Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District election and will consider the merits of Democrat Rita Hart’s contest of the razor-thin election.
Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican, was certified the winner of Iowa’s 2nd District election by only six votes in November. Hart filed a notice of contest with the U.S. House Administration Committee, contesting that 22 legally cast ballots had not been counted on election night or in ensuing recounts.
Miller-Meeks submitted a motion to dismiss Hart’s contest, saying her contest was illegitimate as she had not exhausted her options in the Iowa courts before appealing the election to the House. In a party-line vote, the House committee on Wednesday voted 6-3 to postpone its consideration of Miller-Meeks’ motion to dismiss and offer questions to both parties on the merits of the contest.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., chair of the committee, said the margin is close enough that Hart’s contest is warranted. She said Miller-Meeks’ argument, that Hart didn’t exhaust her options in the Iowa courts, wasn’t applicable to the Federal Contested Elections Act, which is the law that governs how contested elections are handled.
“The House has never dismissed an FCEA contest solely because the contestant declined to file a state court case contesting the canvassing board’s final determination,” she said during a House Administration Committee meeting on Wednesday.
Republicans in the committee meeting said Hart’s decision to skip an appeal to the Iowa courts is a partisan move, and if the House entertained the contest they would be overturning a fair election.
Ranking member of the committee Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., said Hart’s contest should be dismissed because Miller-Meeks was certified by a bipartisan state board.
“We already know the outcome of this contest,” he said. “Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks won a free and fair election. It’s in the best interest of taxpayers and the integrity of our election process to dismiss this motion and to dismiss it today.”
In a press release Wednesday, Hart’s campaign manager Zach Meunier commended the decision of the committee to proceed with hearing the merits of Hart’s election contest.
“At least twenty-two Iowans’ legally-cast ballots still have not been counted due to a string of errors,” Meunier said. “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 and that all Iowans’ voices are heard. Every legal voter in this country has a right to have their ballot counted and the remedy here is clear — count the ballots.”