DES MOINES, Iowa – Former State Senator Rita Hart, D-Wheatland, announced she would bypass contesting the Iowa 2nd Congressional District race results in Iowa’s courts. Instead, her campaign will file a petition through the U.S. House Committee on Administration under the Federal Contested Election Act.
The State Canvassing Board certified the election results on Monday. State Senator Marianette Miller-Meeks, R-Ottumwa, was declared the winner by a six-vote margin.
The Hart campaign cites the six-day timeline allotted under Iowa law to challenge the results in court as the reason they are appealing to the Democratic-majority House.
The campaign cited over-reporting error in Jasper County and under-reporting error as reasons for their challenge. Both counties conducted a countywide recount and an audit of the impacted precincts at the direction of Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.
All 24 counties conducted a recount at the Hart campaign’s request when the unofficial results showed their candidate trailing by 47 votes.
The campaign also complained that Jasper County conducted a third recount after the county’s recount board conducted a recount with a faulty machine, which showed Hart netted nine additional votes. After the third recount, the county certified she only netted one additional vote.
The Hart campaign also complained that several counties did not review votes that the machines did not recognize due to time. State law requires all of a precinct’s votes had to be recounted by machine or by a hand count. Most counties consider absentee ballots to be one precinct.
The Hart campaign omitted the discrepancy in Scott County that showed 131 more absentee ballots after the recount than what was listed in the county’s official canvass. Hart netted 26 votes in Scott County.
“When the recount process began more than two weeks ago, Rita Hart was down by 47 votes. Since then, more Iowans’ ballots have been counted and Rita has continually gained ground, narrowing the gap to a mere six votes. While that recount considered more votes, limitations in Iowa law mean there are more legally cast votes left to be counted. With a margin this small, it is critical that we take this next step to ensure Iowans’ ballots that were legally cast are counted. In the weeks to come, we will file a petition with the House Committee on Administration requesting that these votes be counted and we hope that Mariannette Miller-Meeks will join us in working to ensure that every Iowans’ voice is heard,” Zach Meunier, Hart’s campaign manager, said in a released statement.
The Miller-Meeks campaign blasted the announcement.
“The Miller-Meeks for Congress campaign entered the recount process with a simple strategy: ensure that every Iowan who voted would be treated equally and have his or her vote counted. The campaign believed that a full machine recount throughout the district was the only way to ensure fair and equal treatment. Rita Hart has chosen to avoid Iowa’s judicial system because she knows that a fair, objective analysis of this election would show what we already know: Miller-Meeks won. Rita Hart has chosen a political process controlled by Nancy Pelosi over a legal process controlled by Iowa judges. All Iowans should be outraged by this decision,” Alan Ostergren, Miller-Meeks campaign attorney, said in a released statement.
Pate criticized Hart’s campaign decision to appeal to a partisan process instead of availing herself of Iowa’s courts after a bipartisan recount and certification process.
“A bipartisan and transparent recount process in all 24 counties of the Second Congressional District confirmed Iowans elected Mariannette Miller-Meeks. Under Iowa law the deadline to contest the election is today. Iowans made their voices heard in record numbers, and in the event of a contested election they deserve to have the contest process decided by Iowa judges. The will of Iowa voters should not be overturned by partisan Washington, D.C. politicians,” he said.
Gov. Kim Reynolds, who was part of the state canvassing board, spoke out about the Hart campaign announcement.
“Mariannette Miller-Meeks was elected by Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, and I was proud to certify that result as part of a bipartisan panel. If Rita Hart believes those results are wrong, then she had the opportunity to bring her case in an Iowa court. By heading straight to a Democratic-controlled Congress, Hart is attempting to undermine the voice of Iowans,” she said.
The last time this process was used was in 1984 when the U.S. House of Representatives voted to seat the late U.S. Rep. Frank McClosky, D-Ind., after Indiana certified his Republican challenger, Richard McIntyre, as the winner. Then Speaker Tip O’Neill refused to seat McIntyre when McClosky challenged the results. A recount by the General Accounting Office found McClosky the winner by four votes.