ELECTION 2020

Mariannette Miller-Meeks' attorney: Request for rejected ballots 'normal due diligence'

Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and her attorney say their position has not shifted in the still unresolved election contest in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.

But the pair shied away from saying whether a recent search for rejected ballots signaled a change in repeated claims that every legal ballot was counted.

Miller-Meeks’ attorney has reached out to at least six county auditors requesting lists of rejected ballots, according to reporting by the Quad-City Times and Iowa City Press-Citizen.

Asked whether her stance that every legal vote was counted has changed, Miller-Meeks on Friday reiterated Iowa courts, not Congress, should make such a determination.

“It’s shocking that (Rita Hart) would tell Congress to ignore Iowa laws,” Miller-Meeks told reporters in a conference call. “Iowa law and Iowa courts matter. The Iowa voters matter, and the Iowa courts should play more than a passive role in deciding who goes to Congress. ... We will stand up for Iowa law, the Iowa judicial process and the Iowa voters.”

Miller-Meeks was provisionally sworn in as a new member of Congress last month after state officials certified the election results.

Democrat Rita Hart has asked the Democratically controlled U.S. House to investigate and overturn the race that state officials say she lost to Miller-Meeks by six votes following a districtwide recount in all 24 counties.

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Hart’s campaign has identified 22 ballots it claims were legally cast but not counted, due to election worker error. Had the 22 ballots been tallied, Hart, of Wheatland, argues she would have won by nine votes.

Miller-Meeks’ legal team filed a motion last month to dismiss the case, arguing that “more than a century of precedent” required that Hart exhaust all legal remedies at the state level before taking her case to Congress.

The 1969 federal law under which Hart is challenging the election outcome, however, does not require exhausting all state legal challenges. The House also is not necessarily bound by past precedent.

Miller-Meeks’ attorney, Alan Ostergren has argued Hart has failed to show she is entitled to the seat, arguing her attorneys “cherry picked” ballots in her favor “that represent routine election administration issues.” However, Miller-Meeks’ motion to dismiss did not include additional uncounted votes.

Asked if her campaign was looking for more votes in the race ultimately to be counted, Ostergren said, “Legally, we are not at that point right now.”

Ostergren said the request of county auditors for copies of rejected ballots was part of normal “due diligence” and “an ongoing process” digging into to the legal and factual claims raised by Hart’s campaign.

Hart’s campaign meanwhile argues Miller-Meeks’ “hunt for ballots” shows she “now agrees there are Iowans whose votes remain to be counted.”

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