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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa Republicans continued a GOP-pressure campaign Thursday, casting a U.S. House review of a contested congressional election in Iowa's 2nd District as a partisan power grab to pad Democrats' narrow 219-211 majority in the House.
'Those votes have been counted. They've been recounted. They've been canvassed by bipartisan (recount) boards,' and certified by bipartisan groups of county and state officials, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said at a news conference Thursday. 'This election should stand.'
Reynolds was joined by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann.
Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, of Ottumwa, was seated as a new member of Congress in January, pending the outcome of a House committee's review of Democrat Rita Hart's election challenge. Hart, of Wheatland, lost to Miller-Meeks by just six votes out of nearly 400,000 cast after a bipartisan panel of state officials certified the election results in November following a recount in all 24 counties in southeast Iowa's 2nd Congressional District.
Attorneys for Hart and Miller-Meeks submitted initial legal briefs to a House panel on Monday.
Miller-Meeks' attorney, Alan Ostergren, broadly denied Hart's claims and said the burden was on Hart to prove that a state-certified election should be overturned.
Hart argues that 22 ballots were legally cast in the district but not counted, because of errors by election workers. Had the 22 ballots been tallied, Hart argues she would have won by nine votes.
Republicans have criticized Hart for not challenging the election results in state court before asking Congress to resolve the issue.
'They chose to bypass an impartial court system and go directly to a partisan process. And that is unconscionable,' Reynolds said. 'The voters in Iowa have spoken. We've gone through the process. Mariannette Miller-Meeks has won this election. She's been seated by Congress, and it's time to move on.'
Hart's campaign has argued she did not do so because Iowa statute does not offer enough time for a sufficient appeal process.
Pate pushed back on the assertion, stating 'both my office and the (Iowa) Supreme Court were ready, willing and able to facilitate a fair and thorough contest process.'
Hart's campaign argues the contest is the proper avenue for Congress to fulfill its duty and ensure that all Iowa voters have their voices heard and uphold voters' constitutional right to have their legal ballots counted.
Reynolds and other Republicans, including Iowa U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, have seized on wording in Hart's legal brief asking the House panel 'depart from Iowa law, and adopt counting rules that ‘disenfranchise the smallest possible number of voters.' '
'Rita Hart isn't just asking Congress to overturn a state-certified election. She's asking Democrats to throw out Iowa law in deciding which votes to count,' Reynolds said.
Hart's campaign argues Iowa law prevented legally cast but wrongly rejected ballots from being included in the recount. Iowa Code states recount boards may consider only ballots considered by county canvass boards, even if made aware of legally cast ballots excluded from the initial count.
House committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., in a statement issued Wednesday, argues the House has a constitutional obligation 'to ensure the will of the people, through their votes, is reflected in the final composition of the House.
'I urge Republicans to end their coordinated public campaign — filled with the same dangerous rhetoric and baseless accusations of ‘stealing an election' that contributed to a deadly riot in the Capitol — and instead join us in a deliberate and dispassionate examination of the facts before the Committee,' she said, stressing the House panel 'has not made any decision about the outcome of the contest.'
A handful of moderate and vulnerable House Democrats have expressed reservations at the prospect of reversing a state-certified election and unseating Miller-Meeks, enough to potentially sink any floor vote.
Hart attorney Marc Elias, however, told reporters Tuesday he expects lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, will respect the will of Iowa voters if evidence shows Hart received more lawful votes.