Miller-Meeks says she was denied votes, mulls changes in state recount laws

By: - December 4, 2020 5:18 pm

Mariannette Miller-Meeks appears on “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS on Dec. 4, 2020. Miller-Meeks has been certified as the winner in the 2nd Congressional District race, but Democrat Rita Hart has appealed the six-vote result. (Screenshot via Iowa PBS)

Iowa Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who leads a contested race for the 2nd Congressional District seat, on Friday said election officials didn’t count all legal votes for her and suggested state voting laws may need to be changed.

Miller-Meeks made the comments in response to reporters’ questions on “Iowa Press,” recorded Friday morning at Iowa PBS. 

Iowa state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks has been certified as winner of the 2nd Congressional District by six votes, but a challenge is likely. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Senate)

State officials this week certified Republican Miller-Meeks as the winner by six votes over Democratic former state Sen. Rita Hart. Hart has petitioned a U.S. House committee to review the results.

Hart campaign manager Zach Meunier on Thursday said considering the recounts to date narrowed the post-election result from 47 to six votes, uncounted ballots could easily change the result. Meunier said at least 30 votes from Americans living overseas and from members of the armed forces weren’t counted and thousands of ballots weren’t reviewed for “voter intent.”

The hotly contested race drew nearly 400,000 votes and drew a series of recounts, some prompted by Hart appeals and some the result of errors discovered at county election offices.

An “Iowa Press” reporter asked Miller-Meeks for her reaction to Hart’s decision to bypass a possible court appeal in favor of the U.S. House, which is controlled by Democrats.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we’re taking the election out of Iowa, out of the voters of Iowa’s hands and putting it into a partisan political process,” Miller-Meeks said.

Miller-Meeks said Hart, in appealing to the U.S. House, is in effect saying “that the votes of Iowans don’t count but one vote from California counts. So I think it’s unfortunate, but that is a process that is open to her to proceed.”

When Miller-Meeks was asked if she agreed with Hart’s contention that some legally cast votes weren’t counted, she responded: “There were votes that were cast that were for me also that were not counted and that I did not receive. So I think throughout that process you can’t continue to want to change the rules because the count doesn’t go the way that you want. And no question, it’s an incredibly close contest, if you had asked me my preference I would have rather won by 600 or 6,000 votes. But we are where we are here. The process was followed.”

When host David Yepsen asked Miller-Meeks, an ophthalmologist, if election laws need to be changed, she suggested some changes may be worth debating. 

“I certainly think being an ophthalmologist, hindsight is 20/20,” Miller-Meeks said. “We did make election law changes several years ago and then we made election law changes this year so that people would know that their ballots were secure whether they are voting at the polls or whether they are voting by mail after an absentee ballot request. And so I think the process that we have evolved in the state of Iowa is an extremely good process and people can feel safe and secure in their balance in casting their vote regardless of where they cast it. But yes, I think when you look at the recount process, there may be some more legislative action so that this process is fair and everybody understands the rules as they go into the process.”

Hart said in a statement Friday that a tight deadline for a review by state judges would have prevented all legal votes from being counted, so she appealed to the House, which has more flexibility in scheduling the review.

Miller-Meeks ran for the seat, currently held by retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack, for the fourth time. This was Hart’s first run for Congress. 

Both Miller-Meeks and Hart participated in orientation for new representatives. The Associated Press has declined to call the race until legal challenges are completed.

On other topics, Miller-Meeks: 

— Supported another stimulus package. “We definitely need a small business package that is geared towards small businesses, helping them to survive through closedowns, lockdown, reduction in the ability to provide services. And then I think you have to look how do we navigate through that through extension of unemployment benefits?”

— Said the coronavirus did not wane as many do in warm weather, and supported efforts to get people to wear masks, at least voluntarily. She said she will get the vaccine as soon as it’s available, and is not concerned about its safety. ”Vaccinations save lives,” Miller-Meeks said.

— Said she hopes to serve on the energy and commerce committees.

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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.