Rita Hart answers a question during a debate with Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, October 8, 2020.
Rebecca F. Miller / Associated Press
Democrats have talked a lot about the sanctity of election results in recent weeks, but their tenets on this can be malleable depending on who wins. This week a House Committee took the first step to remove the Republican member for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District and replace it with a Democrat.
GOP MP Mariannette Miller-Meeks won the race in November with 47 votes on the first count and six after lawyers argued over ballots in a recount. Democrat Rita Hart wants the House to use its constitutional authority as “judge of the elections” of its members to do another recount and reverse the result.
The last time the House reversed a certified election result was in 1985 in Indiana’s “bloody eighth” Congressional District, and the last time it replaced a seated member with his opponent was in 1938. In both cases, the House was under Democratic Control.
Ms. Hart’s letter to the House Management Committee claims that 22 ballots should have been counted, but not. Ms. Miller-Meeks responded that the lawsuit should be dismissed as Ms. Hart refused to bring her complaints to a special court in Iowa in December to resolve controversial elections.
On Wednesday, the Democratic majority of the committee joined Ms. Hart and petitioned Ms. Miller-Meeks for dismissal. Remarks from the committee chairman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, indicate that the Democrats are ready to stick the process through to its desired outcome.
Ms. Lofgren said “the American people deserve to know who actually won this election,” as if the result hadn’t already been confirmed by a 5-0 vote by the Iowa State Elections Board of three Republicans and two Democrats. The forerunner of the House Management Committee had stated that the results “will be considered correct until proven indicted by irregularities and fraud”.
But now the committee seems intent on a third number of ballots, this time with Democrats in Washington making the rules. She asked the two parties to list any ballot papers that they believed should have been included or excluded. This invites Ms. Hart’s attorneys to introduce more electoral claims that they believe will favor their side, and forces Ms. Miller-Meeks to do the same even though she is already a legally elected representative.
Ms. Hart’s attorneys had the opportunity to file complaints in a five-judge competition court in Iowa that could have used state law on issues such as signing and sealing. If the House Democrats wanted to avoid meddling in a post-election campaign, all they would have said was that the state process must be respected.
This imperative should have become particularly clear after January 6th. But speakers
said Thursday that a full House vote that reversed the result was a possibility. Democrats may not have the vast majority they had in 1985 and 1938, but their current slim majority is united, wanton, and determined.
The party is on the brink of creating a precedent for the first time in a generation in which a partisan majority in Congress can ignore state officials and repeat a narrow electoral count according to their own preferences. All of their haughty talk about voter respect only seems to apply if
challenges the results. This obvious democratic power game would lead to more bitterness among the partisans – and further undermine voter confidence in elections.
Correction: An earlier version stated that Rita Hart was representing Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District before 2021.
Potomac Watch: Democrats this week pushed aside mail-in and absentee ballot concerns to vote for HR1, and gave up their own states’ right to set electoral rules. Image: Lenin Nolly / Zuma Wire
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Published in the print edition on March 13, 2021.