2020 Election

Iowa Democrat Appeals to House to Overturn Election Loss

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi / Getty Images

Democrats bypassed state courts and are going straight to the Democrat-held House of Representatives to challenge a win eked out by Republicans in a swing Iowa congressional seat.

Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a physician and U.S. Army veteran, defeated Democratic former state senator Rita Hart by six votes in the race for Iowa’s Second Congressional District. The race is only one of two yet to be called by major media outlets, though a recount has confirmed and the state canvassing board has certified Miller-Meeks's victory. Instead of contesting the outcome through Iowa courts, Hart said last week she will appeal to the House to challenge the election results.

Under a 1969 law, Hart can appeal to the House to determine her loss was not valid. The Democratic-controlled House Administration Committee, if it takes up Hart's appeal, can then recommend to the full House whether to vote to seat Hart or Miller-Meeks. The House has examined 107 contested election results between 1933 and 2009 and only overturned the initial result in four cases.

Iowa Republicans denounced Hart’s decision as a sidestep of the normal election appeals process.

"Although it was a close race, Mariannette Miller-Meeks won the election in IA-02 fair and square," incoming representative Ashley Hinson (R., Iowa) told the Washington Free Beacon. "I think Democrats know that, and that is why they are bypassing the courts and taking their case straight to Democrats in Washington and letting Speaker Pelosi be the judge. People should be paying attention to what Democrats are trying to do here—effectively allowing Speaker Pelosi to override the votes of Iowans."

The last time the House reversed an election outcome was in 1985, when it overturned a Republican victory in Indiana’s Eighth Congressional District in favor of incumbent Democrat Rep. Frank McCloskey. In that case, it took the House four months to decide on the result of the election, in which time the Republicans' 418-vote victory was cut to a four-vote loss.

McCloskey’s victory was met with a walkout protest from House Republicans, with 10 House Democrats joining the Republicans in voting against the final result.

Iowa senators Chuck Grassley (R.) and Joni Ernst (R.) told the Free Beacon in a joint statement that Hart is gaming the electoral process.

"Both the original vote count and recount confirmed Mariannette Miller-Meeks won her election," the senators said. "Rita Hart declined to take legitimate legal action in Iowa courts and instead chose to appeal to Washington partisans who should have no say in who represents Iowans. That’s an insult to Iowa voters and our nonpartisan election process. We are confident in the fairness and accuracy of Iowa’s election system."

If Miller-Meeks ultimately holds on in the race, she will replace seven-term congressman Dave Loebsack (D.) as the district’s representative. The Republican’s victory would be the 13th Democratic seat flipped to the GOP in the 2020 elections, and Miller-Meeks would join a freshman class of Republicans with a historic number of women. 

Republicans also hope to take New York’s 22nd Congressional District, where Republican Claudia Tenney leads Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D., N.Y.) by just 12 votes. The New York race faces several legal hurdles before its own confirmation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not respond to a request for comment on Hart's appeal.