Answer: No, no, in fact this is a very bad time to make this request of Nancy Pelosi. Nevertheless, Rita Hart persists in her direct appeal over her six-vote loss in Iowa’s 2nd congressional district. This morning, Hart formally asked the House to exercise its authority to overturn certified election results.
Say … doesn’t this sound familiar?
Today, I am officially asking the House to ensure every Iowan's voice is heard in #IA02.
22 ballots remain uncounted from Election Night & thousands of others that were never examined. We've got to count the votes & get this right. pic.twitter.com/hWTsUDHkhy
— Rita Hart (@RitaHartIA) December 22, 2020
Ahem. Before we get to the politics of this, let’s take a look at the circumstances of the 22 votes in question. The Des Moines Register drills down into Hart’s claims, but there’s one big problem with them. At least one, actually:
On Tuesday, Rita Hart delivered her petition to the Democrat-controlled House Committee on Administration. She calls for investigation on two accounts: one, 22 legally cast ballots were unlawfully excluded, and two, those recount procedures were irregular across the district.
In her filings, Hart claims there were 22 legally cast ballots unlawfully excluded from the state’s certified results in the district.
Only one of these ballots got rejected because of an outright error by election officials, and two more may have been misrouted after being properly submitted. That would only be three Hart votes, and she lost by six. The rest of these ballots got rejected for irregularities, and the county boards have the authority to enforce against those as they see fit.
A court might take issue with that, but … Hart hasn’t challenged the results in court. At all. Rather than take the proper legal steps to challenge these exclusions, Hart wants the House to simply override the certified election results through a political process instead. That is within their authority; Democrats did it in 1985 when a Democratic incumbent appealed a 400-vote loss. The House is the ultimate arbiter of the elections for their members, as is the Senate for theirs.
That, however, isn’t the full extent of their authority, as Nancy Pelosi well knows, and why Hart’s demand is going to be more trouble than it’s worth. Democrats want to paint Trump-supporting Republican holdouts as radicals and extremists for their plans to challenge the presidential electors from several states when Congress meets on January 6 to formalize the presidential election. They have cast these GOP members as extremists and authoritarians for rejecting certified election results from the states. How can Pelosi and her fellow Democrats make that argument while at the same time rejecting the unchallenged (legally, anyway) certified election results from Iowa to put the losing candidate in the House?
The short answer is: they can’t, not without so much hypocrisy that even the media might start pointing it out. Democrats got away with it in 1985 because (a) there wasn’t any controversy in Ronald Reagan’s 49-state landslide over Walter Mondale, and (b) Democrats had a 61-seat majority in the House at the time. Pelosi has a nine-seat majority at the moment, and all it would take would be five flips to undermine this effort — and there will be at least five House Democrats who worry how this hypocrisy will play in 2022. Don’t forget that Pelosi still has to win her election as Speaker at the same time, and this might turn into a bitter food fight at the worst possible moment for her.
The IA-02 seat just isn’t worth these headaches, especially considering what it would mean for legitimizing the Electoral College challenges coming. If House Democrats are wise, they’ll either tell Hart to go to court … or to pound sand.