The closest race in the country, a race which the Republican candidate won by a razor thin margin, is now going to be decided by Democrats in the U.S. House.
On Monday Iowa certified the vote for all state races including the incredibly close race in the 2nd district. The vote totals show that Republican Marianette Miller-Meeks defeated Democrat Rita Hart by just six votes. It’s the closest House race in the country since 1984 and the closest in Iowa in more than 100 years.
Once the vote was certified, Rita Hart had three options. The first was to concede the loss and move on. The second was to contest the outcome in Iowa’s courts. The deadline for a court challenge was close of business today. The third option was to appeal directly to the U.S. House itself which has the power to investigate and determine who will ultimately get the seat. Today, Rita Hart chose door number three:
We all watched #IA02 close from 47 votes to 6, but there are still ballots that haven't been counted. 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. pic.twitter.com/NVksSnT6gd
— Rita Hart (@RitaHartIA) December 2, 2020
The statement from Hart’s spokesperson reads in part, “With a margin this small, it is critical that we take this next step to ensure that Iowans’ ballots that were legally cast are counted.” Hart’s reasoning for skipping over Iowa’s courts is that there’s not enough time for the courts to go through all of the ballots she wants examined again.
Hart’s campaign said that quick timeline would not allow enough time to review the ballots, including thousands of unexamined undervotes and overvotes and others that were not counted for a variety of reasons.
Instead, the campaign said that Hart would file an election contest with the U.S. House under the Federal Contested Elections Act in the coming weeks.
Such a filing, due within 30 days after Monday’s certification, will trigger a proceeding in front of the House Committee on Administration that would allow Hart to offer testimony and evidence.
The Democratic-controlled House could also direct the committee to conduct its own investigation and recount, a process that in the past has included reviewing election records and examining disputed ballots.
The House Committee on Administration is chaired by California Rep. Zoe Lofgren.
Looking over this list of close elections, it looks like the last time this happened was in 1984 when a Republican challenger was certified the winner of a close race in Indiana, but the Democratic House refused to seat him and conducted its own investigation which concluded the Democrat had won by 4 votes. Here’s a description of what happened from Wikipedia:
President Reagan carried the district 61% to 38%. Buoyed by these strong coattails, [Republican Rick] McIntyre trailed [Democrat Frank] McCloskey by only 72 votes after the initial vote count. A tabulation error in two precincts of one county, however, resulted in an overcounting of McCloskey votes, and Indiana’s Secretary of State (a Republican) quickly certified McIntyre as the winner by 34 votes, without checking other counties, even though a recount in another county showed McCloskey with an overall lead of 72 votes. After a recount, McIntyre was up by 418 votes, but more than 4,800 ballots were not recounted for technical reasons. The Democratic-controlled House refused to seat either McIntyre or McCloskey and conducted their own recount. A task force, consisting of two Democrats and one Republican, hired auditors from the U.S. General Accounting Office to do the counting. The recount dragged on for nearly four months, and McCloskey survived three Republican-sponsored floor votes to seat McIntyre. The task force instructed the auditors to ignore many of the “technicalities” that resulted in Indiana officials throwing out ballots. In the end, the House seated McCloskey on May 1, 1985 after declaring him the winner by just four votes (116,645 to 116,641). The vote, 230–195, was largely along partisan lines and in response every Republican House member momentarily marched out of the chamber in symbolic protest.
So that’s probably what we can expect here as well. The House, led by Pelosi and Lofgren will announce that all of the technicalities about undervotes and overvotes don’t matter and will spend months recounting in hopes that they can put Hart in the lead. Then there will be a narrow party line vote to seat her as the winner. I hope Republicans in the House are ready to fight this.