Asking legislators to overturn elections is back in fashion again — if you’re a Democrat.
Democrat Rita Hart is petitioning House Democrats to reverse the election of Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks by the people of Iowa’s second district to represent them in the House. The party-line vote to hear Hart’s belated election contest is a revealing blot on the same caucus that just passed a massive expansion of federal power over voting, elections, and political speech, also on a party-line vote.
Miller-Meeks led by 282 votes when the counting was done on Election Night, but Iowa law allowed mail-in ballots to arrive late if they were postmarked by Election Day, dropping her lead to 47. It shrank to just six votes after the recount was completed at the end of November. Close, but final results sometimes are — which is precisely why we should want elections to be secure and transparent.
Hart could then have gone to court in Iowa, but rather than use the proper legal channels, she decided to wait two months and go instead to the Democratic majority in the House to overrule the recount. She has been represented in this effort by Marc Elias, the Democratic Party’s chief election lawyer, who is essentially asking his own clients to rule in his current client’s favor. The Des Moines Register called in December for Hart to drop her challenge and concede once she refused to subject her challenges to the scrutiny of the Iowa courts.
This should all have ended four months ago, when Hart declined to present her case in court. Instead, taking a page from Donald Trump’s playbook, Hart and Elias want Congress to substitute its own political judgment for the rule of law. The House has the power to judge the election of its members, but Miller-Meeks’s lawyers argued that the House has traditionally required challengers contesting the seating of members to first go through their state’s legal process. Hart didn’t.
Moreover, as Miller-Meeks notes, Hart’s complaint about the recount using differing standards for recounting ballots in different counties is largely the result of Hart’s own Al Gore-esque decision to consent to machine recounts in Republican-run parts of the state while insisting on hand recounts in Democrat-run areas.
Two months after Miller-Meeks was sworn in, Democrats on the House Administration Committee cast a 6-3 party-line vote to overrule her objections to the inquiry. Asked if she could foresee the Democrats handing the seat to Hart, Nancy Pelosi kept her options open: “I respect the work of the committee. . . . We’ll see where that takes us. There could be a scenario to that extent.”
The people of the second district deserve to be represented in Congress, and to have their choice respected once the legal process for state election contests has been exhausted. Democrats should be ashamed for even calling that into question.