DES MOINES, Iowa – On Wednesday morning, the Committee on House Administration voted along party lines in favor of a resolution to postpone U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ motion to dismiss Rita Hart’s challenge of the election results in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District race.
In December, Hart announced she would bypass contesting the Iowa 2nd Congressional District race results in Iowa’s courts. Instead, her campaign filed a petition through the Committee on House Administration under the Federal Contested Election Act.
Hart filed the petition, and Miller-Meeks, who was sworn in provisionally, filed a motion to dismiss.
U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the committee chair, recommended postponement.
“I would recommend that we postpone the motion’s disposition to give the committee an opportunity to consider the merits of the case. Last year’s election in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District was one of the closest house elections in American history. According to the Iowa State Canvassing Board’s final certification, the margin separating the two candidates was only six votes out of almost 400,000 cast – less than 1/6 of one percent. That’s six votes, not 6000, not 600, not 60, or even 16—just six fewer votes than we have members of this committee,” she said.
“However, the contestant, former Iowa State Senator reader Hart has raised specific, credible allegations that enough validly cast ballots were wrongly excluded from the certified totals to reverse the election’s outcome,” she added. “It is the committee’s constitutional duty to investigate all of these claims. It should not be surprising that any candidate in these circumstances with a margin this close would seek to exercise their rights under the law to contest the results.”
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., the committee’s ranking member, said the committee should grant Miller-Meeks’ motion.
“Our committee should not be moving forward with overturning our colleague’s state-certified election,” he said. “She is a sitting member of Congress with all of the same rights and privileges as each and every one of us. Madam Chair, while I know we see the facts of this contest differently. I know we agree that any contest process should be bipartisan, open, and fair.”
“Congresswoman Miller-Meeks was certified the winner of Iowa’s Second District only after a thorough, transparent, and bipartisan process. Bipartisan recount boards, which included a member from each campaign, and an agreed-upon third party in all 24 counties, went through and counted and recounted every lawful vote under Iowa law. Following this process, Iowa’s bipartisan state canvassing board voted unanimously to certify Congresswoman Miller-Meeks the winner. This is the process we can trust,” Davis added.
“Today, none of us can state with confidence who actually won this election. Answering that question is a solemn responsibility of this committee, and it is our obligation under federal law and under the Constitution. Our answer must be grounded in hard evidence, not bald assumptions,” she said.
Davis attempted to amend the resolution to dismiss Hart’s challenge.
“I urge this committee to dismiss this motion now, so we’re not wasting any more tax dollars on this contest, and allow our colleague Congresswoman Miller-Meeks to continue to do her job on behalf of the people of Iowa,” he said.
“I’ll just say that I believe dismissal today would be a dereliction of our duty under the Constitution and under federal law,” Lofgren responded after Davis yielded his time back.
U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wisc., spoke in favor of the amendment.
“The majority of Iowa has fairly elected their representative, the Democratic majority in Washington should not stand in the way and delay this process any longer and spend taxpayer money on unnecessary legal fees,” he said.
Steil reminded the committee that Hart did not avail herself of the challenge process in Iowa and was widely criticized. He entered The Des Moines Register’s editorial critical of her decision into evidence.
“Why did read a heart make a challenge in DC, but not Iowa? Might it be because this committee is made up of two-thirds Democrats and one-third Republicans? It does beg that question. Something we have to consider is why she chose to come here rather than to utilize all available avenues in Iowa,” he stated.
The amendment failed to pass. “This recorded vote is exactly why you don’t need an official election certificate from the state of Iowa overturned,” Davis commented before being called out-of-order.
Miller-Meeks’ campaign attorney, Alan Ostergren, responded to the committee vote.
“The committee’s vote Today was procedural. Congresswoman Miller-Meeks’ motion to dismiss is still pending. The Congresswoman’s legal team will prepare and file the answer to the notice of contest. In the meantime, the Congresswoman is focused on serving the needs of her constituents,” he said.
“Rita Hart’s contest has no more merit Today than it did when it was filed. Her refusal to put her claims before neutral judges in Iowa tells us everything we need to know about the weakness of her case. Hart ignored Iowa law during the recount and again when she failed to make her case before a contest court in Iowa. She hopes that her fellow Democrats in Washington D.C. will ignore Iowa law and the precedents of the House to grant her the seat in Congress that the voters denied her. Hart’s power quest is wrong and damages our electoral system,” Ostergren added.
The Hart commended the vote.
“At least 22 Iowans’ legally-cast ballots still have not been counted in #IA02. We are glad to see the Cmte. 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,” she tweeted.