March 23, 2021

Iowa House Election

“The House Administration Committee is reviewing a challenge brought by defeated Iowa Democrat Rita Hart against freshman Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who won the race by just six votes… Hart's team alleges that there are 22 ballots that should have been counted in the election and that if they had, she would have won by nine votes… The race was certified by the Iowa State Board of Canvassers — with bipartisan support — after a full recount.” NPR

The Constitution states that “Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members.” Thus, “Losing candidates dissatisfied with state recount procedures may petition the relevant chamber of Congress to decide the outcome. These high stakes determinations are immune from judicial review.” National Constitution Center

Many on both sides call on the House to reject the challenge:

“By Hart’s own account, [the] alleged problems were all evident in November, before Iowa’s deadline for certifying the result. Yet instead of promptly raising these issues in Iowa’s courts, where they could be quickly adjudicated by a neutral judge under Iowa law and the Constitution, Hart and her lawyer took a very different approach: They waited three more weeks and then appealed directly to the House of Representatives itself, asking the House to nullify Iowa’s own election process…

“Trying to turn Congress into a national election board proved disastrous last month; and while a single congressional race might not seem to raise the same stakes as a presidential contest, Congress must take the longer view: If it grants Hart’s request to nullify Iowa’s entire process for adjudicating ballot disputes, then it will invite similar petitions from every other losing candidate who happens to be a member of the party that controls the House at a given moment.”
Adam J. White, The Bulwark

“Instead of going to the courts or another arbiter that the public might accept as neutral, Hart chose to contest the election in the Democratic-controlled House itself. That is her legal right, but asking an explicitly partisan body to overturn the certified results of an election to seat a member of that party can undermine people's faith in the democratic process… There is a long history of contested elections in the US House of Representatives. But that doesn't make it right in every instance — especially in an era in which election losses now produce cries of fraud or unfairness (however unfounded many of them may be)…

“Instead, we should reinforce a democratic norm that elections are final when certified or that losing candidates must use the more neutral procedures in state law to challenge the result. In addition, given that the Constitution vests ultimate authority in the House to judge the election of its own members, it should at least set up a truly bipartisan process for doing so. At a minimum, there should be an equal number of Democrats and Republicans on the committee that considers the dispute.”
Joshua A. Douglas, CNN

“Iowa’s bipartisan election process certified the results. Barring truly egregious errors, a partisan House majority should not reverse them. Democrats have the moral upper hand condemning Republican efforts to use legitimate means, such as election law changes and congressional objections, to undermine democracy. They should focus on expanding voter access and fighting gerrymandering and other pro-democracy reforms, not open themselves to charges of hypocrisy over a single House seat.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“In 1938, the last time the House kicked out a sitting Member over election disputes, New Hampshire voters seated him again in the next election. Democrats’ 1985 reversal of an Indiana election succeeded in the short term but invigorated Newt Gingrich’s rise to GOP leader. Few politicians think about long-term institutional interests anymore, but let’s hope there are enough worried about political blowback to stop Mrs. Pelosi from a power play that would deepen the rancor on Capitol Hill.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

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