The prospect of a floor vote to overturn a contested congressional race in Iowa has suddenly become a real dilemma for House Democrats’ most vulnerable members.
Moderate Democrats are privately squirming over the possibility that they could be forced to choose a winner in the race for Iowa’s 2nd district, where the GOP candidate, now-Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, won by just six votes — the smallest margin of any candidate in decades. Her opponent, Rita Hart, declined to appeal through state channels and instead took her challenge directly to the Democratic-run House.
A handful of nervous Democrats have spoken up publicly as the House Administration Committee reviews the case. But behind the scenes, more moderates are voicing concern about the dynamics of possibly unseating a GOP lawmaker — particularly after they hammered Republicans for trying to do just that to President Joe Biden, which led to a deadly insurrection in the U.S. Capitol.
The topic even surfaced at a call on Monday between Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee officials and the party’s most vulnerable members — a discussion that, at times, grew tense as lawmakers aired concerns about the looming committee decision.
A House committee’s probe of a congressional race in Iowa has become a flashpoint on Capitol Hill, forcing Democrats to explain how reviewing that election outcome differs from Republicans’ efforts last year to overturn several states’ presidential results.
GOP Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks took office in January after the Iowa State Board of Canvassers certified her victory over Democratic candidate Rita Hart. She won by just six votes out of the nearly 400,000 total votes cast, following a recount of the entire district. Ms. Hart filed in late December to challenge the results under the Federal Contested Elections Act. It isn’t unusual for candidates to appeal to the House to review a race’s results, but such efforts rarely succeed.
Earlier this month, the House Administration Committee voted along party lines to review the case, and further filings from the candidates are due Monday to the panel. There isn’t a set timeline for the review.
The debate is emerging at a heated time in the House, when many Democrats remain deeply angered with Republicans for echoing former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the election was stolen from him. During a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, some GOP lawmakers unsuccessfully challenged results in several states that President Biden won and rioters mobbed the Capitol to protest the certification of Mr. Biden’s victory.
“The American people deserve to know who actually won this election and the people of Iowa’s second congressional district deserve to be represented by that person,” said House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren (D., Calif.).
In the House race, a successful challenge by the Democrats would bolster their narrow majority, which currently stands at 219-211 with five vacancies.
The Constitution gives states the authority to administer elections, but says each chamber of Congress is the final judge of the elections and qualifications of its own members. The Federal Contested Elections Act sets out the procedures for the losing candidate in a general election to the House to contest the seat.
Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, the top Republican on the committee, questioned why Ms. Hart hadn’t pursued her challenge through Iowa’s court system and said Democrats were being hypocritical.
“You cannot complain about anyone questioning election certificates again if you’re willing to do the same with a duly elected member, especially since Rita Hart did not finish the court process in Iowa,” he told reporters.
Ms. Hart’s lawyer, Marc Elias, said in a filing that exhausting the state judicial process isn’t a requirement for challenging the election in the House. The Hart campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment on its decision to not challenge the case in Iowa courts….
Ms. Miller-Meeks had initially led by 47 votes, but Ms. Hart asked for a recount in all 24 counties, which whittled the Republican’s lead to six votes. But the counties used different methods for the recount and Ms. Hart alleged they didn’t count all legal ballots. Ms. Miller-Meeks’s legal team said Iowa law gives counties flexibility in how they choose to count ballots and that Ms. Hart’s campaign pushed in each county for the method that would benefit the Democrat there.
Ms. Hart, a former state senator, is now asking for a “uniform recount” of the results. In investigating previous contests, the Administration Committee has impounded election records and ballots, conducted recounts, examined disputed ballots and interviewed election officials, according to the Congressional Research Service. The committee can issue a report and a resolution with its recommendation on who should hold the House seat, which the chamber votes on.
Republican Claudia Tenney will be certified as the winner of New York’s 22nd Congressional District race, a judge ruled Friday, ending a three-month ordeal in the only undecided House race in the country.
The ruling represents the most definitive answer to who won in an election saga with many twists and turns, though it’s not entirely over yet. Democrat Anthony Brindisi has promised to appeal at the state court, and he could seek to contest the election results at the House of Representatives itself.https://9bbfba686363572403305ba1ef9dc273.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Tenney, of New Hartford, is ahead of Brindisi by 109 votes. She earned 156,099 votes to Brindisi’s 155,989.
State Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte ruled that counties and the state elections board are to certify the election, rejecting an effort by Democrat Anthony Brindisi, who occupied the seat until November 2020, to keep the election unofficial until his appeal to a higher court concludes.
In ruling against Brindisi, DelConte argued that the Democrat did not provide enough evidence that certifying Tenney would cause “irreparable harm,” given that he still had a remedy at the federal level.
It’s not clear when Brindisi’s appeal will begin. His attorneys announced Friday morning that they will appeal DelConte’s rejection of several hundred ballots that Brindisi wanted counted.
In his ruling, DelConte criticized local elections boards for what he said amounted to “systemic violations of state and federal election law” that affected both candidates. In particular, he singled out Oneida County’s failure to process more than 2,400 applications from voters who registered via the DMV, which rendered them unable to vote on Election Day.
Who will represent the 22nd Congressional District in Washington may come down to whether nearly 70 people who filled out a voter registration form through the Department of Motor Vehicles were really registered to vote.
The legal teams representing Republican Claudia Tenney and Democrat Anthony Brindisi have filed briefs with state Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte outlining how they believe he should rule on the paper ballots filled out by more than 60 voters. Brindisi’s filings mention 69 such voters and Tenney’s 64.
It emerged during previous hearings in the court review of the ballot counting that Oneida County election commissioners did not include those ballots because they considered the voters not registered on time.
Commissioners and their deputies said they received registration applications but did not process them as they were overwhelmed with a flood of absentee ballot requests during the COVID-19 pandemic, carrying out recent changes in the law regarding registration, and preparing for the first major general election with 10 days of early voting at multiple polling sites, as well as preparing for Election Day.
Whether they should have may decide whether Tenney’s lead of 29 votes in unofficial tallies holds up.
The following is a guest post from Derek Muller about Iowa’s Second Congressional District Contest:
Iowa’s Second Congressional District is officially one of the closest congressional elections in American history. Congresswoman-Elect Mariannette Miller-Meeks led by 47 votes after the official canvass. After challenger Rita Hart requested a recount in all 24 counties, Miller-Meeks led by just six votes. Miller-Meeks received a certificate of election from the state and will be seated, absent an extraordinary move from the House of Representatives, in the 117th Congress.
Hart has filed an election contest under the Federal Contested Elections Act of 1969. Under the Constitution, each House is “the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members.” In doing so, however, Hart skipped the opportunity to file an election contest in Iowa courts.
Hart’s lead-up to the election contest was a thaumatrope. On one side, the Hart campaign alleged that not all the votes were counted, and every vote needed to be counted. On the other side, the Hart campaign complained that the time to seek an election contest in state court was too short, so the House was the only mechanism for it. Spinning this thaumatrope, the two claims appeared as a single concern.
But now that the contest has been filed, we see two distinct claims. The first are discrete claims about twenty-two ballots that were not counted that the Hart campaign argues should have been counted, amply within the window of a state court contest to resolve. The second are sweeping claims asking for, effectively, a second recount (or a third count) of thousands of ballots, something a contest court would never have entertained because Hart would have been estopped from raising it.
I’ll provide an overall setup of the dispute, then dig into some of the specific claims Hart raises in the contest. I’ll refer to some of the points in the Notice of Contest, but I’ll also refer to relevant facts omitted from the Notice. But in short, Hart raises two types of claims, and both should be dismissed, in my judgment, on fairly straightforward procedural grounds: the first claim should be dismissed for lack of exhaustion; the second claim should be dismissed for estoppel, waiver, or laches.Continue reading Derek Muller: “Iowa’s Second Congressional District Contest Should Be Dismissed for Lack of Exhaustion of State Remedies”
An audit of Antrim County election results Thursday gave President Donald Trump a net gain of 12 votes from the certified results in the northern Michigan county.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s total decreased by one vote, from 5,960 to 5,959, while Trump’s increased 11 votes, from 9,748 to 9,759, according to preliminary results from the county’s more than 7-hour, livestreamed audit. Biden won the state of Michigan by more than 154,000 votes on Nov. 3, according to certified results.
Third-party presidential candidates in Antrim County were off by zero to one vote compared with certified results.
“This is very typical of what we find in a hand-count of ballots,” said Lori Bourbonais, with the Michigan Department of State. “It is normal to find one or two votes in a precinct that differ between a hand tally and machine count.”
The reliably Republican County has been the center of controversy in the weeks since the election after initial results posted in the early morning hours of Nov. 4 showed Biden ahead of Trump by thousands of votes. Election officials later determined a clerk’s failure to properly update software had resulted in transposed results and Trump actually won the county by more than 3,700 votes. Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.
But the error triggered a series of unproven fraud allegations regarding Dominion Voting Systems, which Antrim County and 47 other Michigan counties use in elections.
Justice Scott J. DelConte also denied a motion by Tenney’s lawyers, who had asked the court to order the eight counties in the district to immediately certify her as the winner by 12 votes in an election where more than 318,000 ballots were cast.
Instead, DelConte ordered each county Boards of Elections in the 22nd Congressional District to correct their counting errors in the election.
Where it’s not possible to correct the errors, the counties must go back and conduct a manual hand count of the ballots in question, DelConte wrote in a 20-page order.
DelConte wrote that Tenney’s proposal would require him to “ignore multiple errors by the respondent Boards of Elections, disregard proper challenges to invalid ballots that were counted and valid ballots that were not counted…and ignore hundreds of ballots that were never canvassed in the first place.”
The judge added, “That is not the role of the court. The winner of this election must be decided by the real parties of interest: the voters. And to do so, every valid vote must be counted.”
Update: you can find the 20 page opinion at this link.
Keep your eye on this:
State Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte has scheduled a hearing for 1 p.m. Monday in Oswego to determine the next step in sorting out who won the election a month ago for the seat in Congress representing New York’s 22nd District.
The judge will hear from legal teams representing first-term incumbent Anthony Brindisi of Utica and challenger former Republican member of Congress Claudia Tenney.
Tenney’s lawyers filed a motion this week asking DelConte to basically end the case by directing each of the eight county election boards to report certified results to the state Board of Elections. As tallied so far, Tenney would win by 12 votes.
The lawyers say it is impossible to say whether certain ballots were included in the counts the boards have provided because many ballots lack proper documentation. Oneida County election officials told the judge earlier that they put sticky notes on objected-to ballots only to have many ballots lose the notes. They cited previous court rulings in New York supporting their contention….
Brindisi’s team, led by Martin Connor of Brooklyn, contends that state election statutes and case law allow the judge to have the election boards correct mistakes made in recording objections to ballots and just which ballots have been counted. In their memorandum, the Brindisi lawyers cite a 1925 Oneida County case where the court held the court has jurisdiction even if the statement of canvass listed no void or challenged ballots but where witnesses established that votes were challenged.
This is something to watch:
A Democratic congressional candidate in Iowa who trailed by six votes after a recount said Wednesday she will forgo further legal challenges in the state and instead appeal directly to the U.S. House for review.
Rita Hart’s campaign had until Wednesday afternoon to contest the election under Iowa law following Monday’s certification of results in which Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was declared the winner of the closest House race in decades.
An election contest in Iowa would have triggered the formation of a five-judge panel that would have been required to rule on who won the race by Tuesday, Dec. 8.
Hart’s campaign said that quick timeline would not allow enough time to review the ballots, including thousands of unexamined undervotes and overvotes and others that were not counted for a variety of reasons.
Instead, the campaign said that Hart would file an election contest with the U.S. House under the Federal Contested Elections Act in the coming weeks.
Such a filing, due within 30 days after Monday’s certification, will trigger a proceeding in front of the House Committee on Administration that would allow Hart to offer testimony and evidence.
The Democratic-controlled House could also direct the committee to conduct its own investigation and recount, a process that in the past has included reviewing election records and examining disputed ballots.
Ultimately, the committee would file a report to the full House with its findings on who won the most votes and recommending who should fill the seat representing southeast Iowa. The House could act on a simple majority vote.
Wisconsin’s partial recount boosted Democrat Joe Biden’s victory by 87 votes Sunday as President Donald Trump said he was preparing a lawsuit to overturn the results.
The completion of Dane County’s retallying of the vote came two days after Milwaukee County finished its recount.
Biden netted 132 votes in Milwaukee County and Trump netted 45 votes in Dane County. When taken together, that increased Biden’s statewide margin to 20,695 votes out of about 3 million cast.
Trump’s campaign paid $3 million to cover the cost of the recounts in Wisconsin’s two most Democratic counties so he could pursue a long-shot lawsuit to claim the state’s 10 electoral votes.
Trump on Saturday tweeted that he would file a lawsuit in Wisconsin by Tuesday, when the state Elections Commission is set to certify the results.
“The Wisconsin recount is not about finding mistakes in the count, it is about finding people who have voted illegally, and that case will be brought after the recount is over, on Monday or Tuesday,” Trump wrote.
The recount has not turned up evidence of fraud, prompting Twitter to label his tweet as disputed. Trump’s campaign has alleged long-standing voting practices in Wisconsin are illegal and sought to throw out about 238,000 ballots in Dane and Milwaukee counties.
Three county recount boards are defying a recent legal opinion from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office and using a machine to aid the recount of ballots in the ultra-close 2nd District congressional race.
Recount boards in Scott, Johnson and Clinton counties — the three most populous in the district — justified the move, saying it is necessary to ensure that the recount board’s three members have time to examine ballots the machines couldn’t read for voter intent to see if any were filed for Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks or Democrat Rita Hart but were not tallied accordingly.
Assistant Scott County Attorney Robert Cusack offered a legal opinion for his board writing that using a machine to assist the hand count is consistent with the recount board’s charge from Iowa Code to “tabulate all votes” and that a hand recount of all 60,000 votes is not required in light of the confidence in voting machines and the code’s own time constraint. …
President Donald Trump’s campaign would have to pay nearly $8 million to start a recount in Wisconsin, a state he narrowly lost two weeks ago.
Trump will have to decide by Wednesday whether to carry through with the recount he has promised to pursue.
If his campaign pays the $7.9 million cost up front, the recount will begin as soon as Thursday and be complete by Dec. 1, according to the state Elections Commission.
Trump has been furiously fundraising for the Wisconsin recount and legal challenges in other states to try to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. If he doesn’t go ahead with the Wisconsin recount, he can use the money he’s raised for other purposes, such as retiring his campaign debt.
Georgia’s hand audit of ballots cast in the presidential election is proceeding rapidly with little change in the results so far, according to lawyers working for President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign.
Some 48 of the state’s 159 counties have finished their examination of the ballots with either no change or minor shifts — differences of fewer than five votes in some instances, they said. Four counties that have finished their retallies reported having no changes.