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Iowa Democrat Rita Hart files challenge to six-vote defeat in the House

Iowa –  Iowa Democrat Rita Hart is officially contesting Iowa’s Second Congressional District election, asking the House of Representatives to recount ballots and arguing that she would have won but for lawful votes left uncounted.

Hart ran against Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks in November’s election, and the state’s election officials certified the Republican’s narrow victory, by just six votes, late last month.

But in an official “notice of contest” filed with the House, Hart’s campaign claims it has identified “at least 22 lawful ballots” that were left out of the count (the vast majority of those votes, but not all, were for Hart). The campaign says that if those votes were correctly added to the tally, the Democrat would have won.

The request goes on to request a “hand recount of every ballot” to be sure all votes are captured.

“We believe that in a democratic system, that it is important that this process be abided by, and that every vote be counted. It is better to get it done right than to simply ignore the fact that voters have been disenfranchised because it might be more convenient,” Mark Elias, the Hart campaign’s lawyer, said in a briefing with reporters.

Miller-Meeks and fellow Republicans slammed the decision.

“Every vote has been counted under Iowa law, and recounted under Iowa law. The canvas of votes was approved unanimously by a bipartisan board, and certified by the state of Iowa. I’m proud that a narrow majority of you elected me,” Miller-Meeks said in a video statement Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, Rita Hart now wants Washington politicians to override the will of Iowa voters and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Iowa voters.”

And in a statement, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Bob Salera called the decision to petition the House a “naked power grab.”

The challenge is the latest twist in what’s slated to be one of the tightest House races in modern American history. First, the state’s unofficial results found Hart 47 votes behind Miller-Meeks, but the margin narrowed to six votes after a recount requested by Hart.

Ultimately, the House has control over who it decides to seat, so it will be up to the Democratic-controlled body as to whether to investigate and ultimately decide who should be seated. One high-profile example of the process happened in 1984, when the House conducted a recount that ultimately overturned the results in Indiana’s 8th Congressional District.

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