By Jim EllisMarch 12, 2021 — Yesterday, the House Administration Committee met virtually to consider Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ (R-Ottumwa) motion to dismiss the Federal Contested Elections Act challenge from Democrat Rita Hart in relation to the state certified results of the 2020 congressional election in Iowa’s 2nd District. The committee voted 6-3 on partisan lines to postpone the dismissal action.
To review, Rep. Miller-Meeks’ victory margin is only six votes of 394,800 ballots cast. Hart is challenging the results before the House Administration Committee claiming that 22 ballots, enough to overturn the final result, were legal but not counted.
Yesterday’s hearing was procedural in that committee chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) moved to postpone hearing the dismissal motion in order for the members to fully consider Hart’s argument of contestant. Rep. Lofgren indicated that both the Iowa Republican and Democratic Parties, along with Iowa election officials, will be sent identical questionnaires to fully investigate the matter. This means we can expect a much longer process to fully examine the contested ballots, allow testimony, and review the Iowa recount process.
Committee Minority Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-IL) countered, indicating that the Iowa officials have twice counted the votes and, as committee member Bryan Steil (R-WI) reported, recount boards in all 24 counties that form the 2nd District – three member panels comprised of a Miller-Meeks’ appointed member, a Hart appointed member, and a county appointed member – all agreed on the final totals in each local entity.
Davis further explained to the committee members and listening audience that Hart, a former Iowa state senator and 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor, had eschewed the available legal process, which is to petition the Iowa court system. Davis said he concludes Hart made the decision to come directly to the House because she knew the courts would reject her legal arguments.
The Iowa recount process changed the original totals. The first reported outcome revealed a 44-vote Miller-Meeks margin. It then dropped to 30 votes during the recount and Scott County (Davenport), the district’s largest entity, reduced the number even further culminating in the current six-vote final result that the Iowa secretary of state certified as official, with which the bipartisan Iowa Election Canvass Board unanimously concurred. On Jan. 3rd, the House voted to provisionally seat Miller-Meeks until the Hart challenge is resolved.
Iowa’s 2nd District occupies the state’s southeast sector. Its two largest cities are Davenport and Iowa City. Former Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa City) represented the district for seven terms before retiring at the conclusion of the previous Congress. He did not seek re-election in 2020.
Miller-Meeks, an ophthalmologist who served in the US Army for 24 years before opening her own eye practice, is a four-time congressional candidate who was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2018. Hart is a rancher and former educator. She served six years in the state Senate and became Democratic gubernatorial nominee Fred Hubbell’s running mate in the 2018 governor’s race, a campaign they lost to Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), 47-50 percent.
Once the administration committee hears the challenges and votes, the entire House will have to vote whether to seat Hart should the panel agree with her challenge. Therefore, it appears the entire process in resolving the second closest House result in US electoral history will continue for several more weeks.