Opinion

Grassley, Ernst quick to call House race. But neither say Biden won presidency

Richard Davidson (left), a representative for state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, John Nahra, a mutual representative,
Richard Davidson (left), a representative for state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, John Nahra, a mutual representative, and Ian Russell, a representative for former state Sen. Rita Hart, look over ballots Nov. 17 during a three-member recount board chosen by the campaigns in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District race recount and re-examining of ballots cast in Scott County. (Gary Krambeck/Quad-City Times)

Republican U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst say fellow Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks won her election to Congress.

But they have not yet reached the same conclusion about whether Democrat Joe Biden won the race for president.

Grassley and Ernst last week reacted to news that Democrat Rita Hart plans to challenge Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District close election results. Grassley and Ernst’s statement was headlined “Miller-Meeks won her election,” and criticized the Hart campaign for challenging the results in the U.S. House instead of in Iowa courts.

Miller-Meeks has been certified by the state as the 2nd District’s winner in a race that was decided by just six votes out of nearly 400,000 cast.

“Both the original vote count and recount confirmed Mariannette Miller-Meeks won her election,” the joint statement from Grassley and Ernst said. “There are legal avenues through which candidates can litigate election disputes if they believe there are specific election irregularities. Rita Hart declined to take legitimate legal action in Iowa courts and instead chose to appeal to Washington partisans who should have no say in who represents Iowans. That’s an insult to Iowa voters and our nonpartisan election process. We are confident in the fairness and accuracy of Iowa’s election system.”

Meantime, neither Grassley nor Ernst has stated that President-elect Joe Biden won the presidential election — which was called almost a month ago by margins exponentially larger than Miller-Meeks’ apparent victory.

Neither Grassley nor Ernst suggested President Donald Trump, a Republican, should stop challenging the election results in myriad states across the country.

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When asked why Grassley and Ernst were quick to declare Miller-Meeks the winner of a race decided by just six votes while being, as yet, unwilling to declare Biden the winner of the presidential race, a spokesman issued a joint response from the senators supporting Trump’s efforts in the courts.

Their argument is that Trump should be allowed to pursue legal options through the courts, and that’s what Hart should have done instead of taking her challenge to the U.S. House, which is controlled by Democrats.

“President Trump, like all candidates, is entitled to pursue legal challenges in the courts to litigate alleged violations of election law,” the joint response said. “Unfortunately, Rita Hart declined that opportunity and is now attempting to circumvent Iowa courts by appealing directly to Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats to undo a verified and certified election outcome. Washington politicians should not decide who represents Iowans. Rita Hart could have chosen to let the nonpartisan Iowa legal process play out. Instead, she’s saying partisan politicians in the hallways of Congress should make that choice on behalf of Iowans.”

Hart’s campaign has argued it believes there are thousands of ballots that should be reviewed in the 2nd District election, and Iowa state law does not allow for sufficient time to conduct such a lengthy review.

But what the Grassley and Ernst response ignores is that the Trump campaign’s legal efforts have been decidedly unsuccessful. According to reporting from the Associated Press, Trump’s campaign and his allies have brought roughly 50 cases: only one has been successful (a minor victory in Pennsylvania that did not affect the state’s vote totals) while more than 30 cases have been rejected or dropped. Some of the judges’ rulings have been harshly worded because of the lack of evidence.

In other words: There was no widespread voter fraud as Trump and his closest allies contend without evidence.

Biden is expected to become the 46th U.S. president on Jan. 20.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His column appears Monday in The Gazette. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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