116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
While moderate and vulnerable U.S. House Democrats express reservations over the prospect of reversing a state-certified election, Democrat Rita Hart's campaign has renewed its call for all lawful ballots to be counted as a GOP-pressure campaign builds casting the contest as a partisan power grab.
Attorneys for Hart and U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, submitted initial legal briefs to a House panel on Monday.
Miller-Meeks' attorney, Alan Ostergren, broadly denied Hart's claims and said the burden was on Hart to prove that a state-certified election should be overturned.
'The congresswoman has a certificate of election, and that demonstrates that she is the winner of the race under Iowa law,” Ostergren told reporters Monday.
Miller-Meeks, of Ottumwa, was seated as a new member of Congress in January, pending the outcome of a House committee's review of Hart's election challenge. Hart, of Wheatland, lost to Miller-Meeks by just six votes after a bipartisan panel of state officials certified the election results in November following a recount in all 24 counties in southeast Iowa's 2nd Congressional District.
It is one of the closest federal elections in U.S. history.
Hart argues that 22 ballots were legally cast in the district but not counted, due to errors by election workers. Had the 22 ballots been tallied, Hart argues, she would have won by nine votes.
'When you set aside all of the procedural issues ... you need to not lose sight of the voters,” Hart's attorney, Marc Elias, told reporters on Tuesday. 'This is fundamentally about them and their rights, and who's going to fight to make sure that they didn't go to the trouble in the middle of a pandemic to cast a ballot only to have it not count.”
The House Committee on Administration voted earlier this month along party lines to consider the case and postpone a decision on Miller-Meeks' motion to dismiss Hart's election challenge.
Republicans have criticized Hart for not challenging the election results in state court before asking Congress to resolve the issue.
Hart's campaign has argued she did not do so because Iowa statute does not offer enough time for a sufficient appeal process, requiring a panel of Iowa judges to convene, hear arguments, review ballots and make a decision in roughly a week's time.
Enough Democrats have privately expressed reservations about the House taking up Hart's challenge to sink any vote on the House floor, Politico reported.
It's unclear when the House panel will make a final determination in the election challenge. There is no deadline for the House to resolve Hart's election contest.
Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Claif., has said she would like to resolve the matter this spring. Elias told reporters he hoped the matter could be resolved by early July.
Attorneys for both campaigns have until Monday to submit follow-up briefs to the committee.