Capitol Riot Clouds Democrats’ Look at Contested Iowa Results

Democratic congressional candidate Rita Hart answers a question during a debate with Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Oct. 8, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/Cedar Rapids Gazette via AP)
Alan Fram and Ryan J. Foley
The Associated Press

An Iowa Democrat’s quest for Congress to overturn her state-certified defeat for a House seat is prompting awkward divisions within her party, months after its members reacted with uniform fury at Donald Trump’s unfounded drive to reverse his presidential election loss.

Democrat Rita Hart, the loser by an excruciatingly tight six votes, says she’s found 22 uncounted ballots that would make her the victor over Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who took office in January. Hart has brought her case to the House Administration Committee, which has been collecting briefs, and both sides have lawyered up for a dispute that could smolder into summer.

The Democratic-run House could make the final decision. But with the party still seething over Trump’s brazen attempt to have Congress overturn state-certified election results he didn’t like, at least six Democrats have publicly expressed qualms about doing the same to Miller-Meeks.

Those dissidents are quietly supported by others, say several Democrats speaking on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations, suggesting that Hart’s effort could fail.

“Legislators should be heeding states’ certifications of their elections,” Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., said in a statement. Without evidence of “rampant error,” she said, “I do not believe it is the role of House members to dictate the outcome of elections.”

Republicans oppose the effort, savaging it as an attempt to ignore voters — a point few GOP lawmakers raised during Trump’s unjustified fight to invalidate certified votes and hang onto his presidency. This leaves Democrats torn between seating Hart and adding a smidgen of breathing room to their precipitous 219-211 majority — with five vacancies — or rejecting her claim and avoiding accusations of a hypocritical power play.

Davis and Miller-Meeks were among the minority of House Republicans who voted against Trump’s groundless effort to invalidate Electoral College votes won by now- President Joe Biden. Those roll calls occurred hours after Trump supporters’ tried disrupting that process with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which left five people dead.

Hart’s request triggered the 1969 Federal Contested Elections Act, which gives the House wide latitude for investigating and determining which ballots can be counted, decisions that needn’t follow state laws. That statute places the burden of proof on the candidate challenging the results.

Challengers face long odds. Of 107 contested elections the House considered from 1933 to 2009, the overwhelming majority were dismissed, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has found. The committee has set no deadline for deciding the Iowa dispute.

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