Hart contests 2nd District results, plans to petition U.S. House committee

By: - December 2, 2020 1:55 pm

The U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Getty Images)

Democratic candidate Rita Hart on Wednesday said she will contest the certified election results showing she lost to Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks by six votes in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District race.

Hart said she believes some legal votes have not been counted.

Former Iowa Sen. Rita Hart, a Democrat, ran for the 2nd Congressional District seat. (Photo courtesy of Hart campaign)

“We all watched #IA02 close from 47 votes to 6, but there are still ballots that haven’t been counted,” Hart tweeted shortly after 1 p.m. “The only way to ensure all Iowans’ votes are counted is a full examination of this election by the U.S. House that will consider every ballot cast.”

Miller-Meeks tweeted late Wednesday afternoon that Iowans should be “outraged” by what she sees as plainly a political move by Hart.

“Rita Hart has chosen a political process controlled by Nancy Pelosi over a legal process controlled by Iowa judges. All Iowans should be outraged by this decision,” Miller-Meeks tweeted. 

The Republican secretary of state and the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party both accused Hart of trying to overturn the certified results of the election in a political maneuver by appealing to a U.S. House committee controlled by Democrats rather than to a panel of Iowa judges.

After a full recount was finished last week, Iowa state officials on Monday certified Miller-Meeks as the winner in a tight and spirited race to replace retiring Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack, who has represented the southeast Iowa district for 14 years. Miller-Meeks claimed victory and said she looked forward to representing Iowans. It was her fourth campaign for the seat.

Hart maintained Wednesday that the narrowing of the margin by dozens of votes after Election Day warrants a check of whether all qualifying ballots were counted.

“While that recount considered more votes, limitations in Iowa law mean there are more legally cast votes left to be counted,” Hart said in a statement. “With a margin this small, it is critical that we take this next step to ensure Iowans’ ballots that were legally cast are counted.”

In a news release, Hart said the full number of votes cast “far outnumber the number of ballots needed to change the outcome of the election.” She said she will file a petition with the House Committee on Administration under the Federal Contested Elections Act. The House is controlled by the Democratic Party.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, said any appeal should have been to a panel of Iowa judges, not to the U.S. House committee. “Iowans made their voices heard in record numbers, and in the event of a contested election they deserve to have the contest process decided by Iowa judges,” Pate said in a statement. “The will of Iowa voters should not be overturned by partisan Washington, D.C. politicians.”

Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said Hart “ran to Speaker Nancy Pelosi” after losing the election. “Instead of exhausting all legal options here in Iowa, once the votes were counted and she knew she lost, Rita Hart immediately ran to Speaker Pelosi to help her steal this seat from Iowans,” Kaufmann said in a statement. He added that Hart should accept the certified results and abandon her “shameful attempt” to change the outcome.

Hart noted errors made in Jasper and Lucas counties as evidence a review is needed. Those counties announced they had corrected the mistakes. Hart added: “Many counties did not fully review ballots to identify valid votes that the machines did not recognize, in part because of the time and burden that would have been required for such a thorough count.”

The race is the closest federal election since 1985 and the closest U.S. House race in Iowa since 1916. The Associated Press has said it will not call the race until all legal challenges are completed.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.