12:30 Report

Iowa Democrat who lost by six votes will appeal to House


Iowa Democratic congressional candidate Rita Hart announced Wednesday she will appeal directly to the U.S. House for a review of her race after a district-wide recount showed her trailing by just 6 votes. 

The announcement comes just before a deadline following the Monday certification of the results in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, which is currently represented by retiring Democrat Dave Loebsack. Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was declared the winner in what currently is the tightest House race since 1984.

Hart’s campaign said it is opting to appeal directly to the House because an in-state legal review by a five-judge panel would be required to end by Tuesday, which Democrats say would not allow enough time to review the votes that were not counted for multiple reasons.

The recount that showed the 6-vote margin was barred by state law from counting ballots that were not included in the initial canvas, and the campaign indicated that they believed that ballots that were not tallied on election night for any number of reasons and ballots that machines considered overvotes or undervotes could more than make up the difference. 

Hart first requested a recount last month after the initial canvas showed her trailing by just 47 votes.

The filing of the election contest to the House under the Federal Contested Elections Act will set up a hearing in front of the House Committee on Administration in which Hart could testify and present evidence supporting her cause. The panel would then file a full report to the House with its recommendation on who should fill the seat. 

“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 continuously gained ground, narrowing the gap to a mere 6 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,” said campaign manager Zach Meunier.

“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.”

It was not immediately clear if the proceedings would prevent Miller-Meeks from being sworn in with the new Congress on Jan. 3. The Iowa House race has taken on outsized importance given the razor-thin majority Democrats will have in the next Congress, leading both sides to prepare for lengthy legal battles.

Miller-Meeks’s campaign maintained that the recount showing her six votes ahead was the proper remedy to ensuring “fair and equal treatment” and said in a statement that Hart was trying to circumvent Iowa’s judicial system. 

“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,” said campaign attorney Alan Ostergren. “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.”

Tags 2020 2020 election Dave Loebsack Election recount Iowa Mariannette Miller-Meeks Nancy Pelosi Rita Hart

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