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.