Democrat Rita Hart said she’ll petition the U.S. House of Representatives to ultimately decide who won her congressional contest against Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. It was the closest House race in the nation, with Iowa certifying Miller-Meeks as the winner with a margin of just six votes.
If the Democratic-led House decides to hear Hart’s case, then that could kick off a scenario where all members of Congress would have to cast a vote on whether Hart should be seated as the official representative in the 2nd District.
It’s happened before. House Democrats voted in 1985 to seat a fellow Democrat who initially lost an Indiana House race by 418 votes under the state-certified results. But Indiana Democratic incumbent Frank McCloskey petitioned the House and a months-long congressional investigation and recount determined that McCloskey won the election by four votes.
Now Democrats — holding a razor-thin majority in the House — could be faced with a tough political predicament of deciding whether to let the Iowa results stand or vote to overturn them if a congressional recount comes out in favor of Hart.
A new poll of likely voters found that a potential vote could have electoral ramifications for Iowa Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne of the neighboring 3rd Congressional District.
Nearly 75 percent of those surveyed in Axne’s district said Iowa courts should handle election disputes, compared to 7 percent who said elected officials in Washington D.C. should decide, according to the polling by Cygnal obtained exclusively by Fox News.
If the House voted to install Hart as the next congresswoman, 58 percent said they would view her as an “illegitimate” member of congress. And almost two-thirds of the 3rd District residents surveyed said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who votes to overturn Iowa’s state-certified results.
The survey of 400 of Axne’s constituents was taken Dec. 12-13 and paid for by the right-leaning American Action Network. The survey was conducted by text and by an automated phone poll of likely voters.
A spokesperson for Axne did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Hart has until Dec. 30 to file her detailed allegations with the House under the 1969 Federal Contested Elections Act. Miller-Meeks will have 30 days to respond.
Riley Kilburg, a spokesperson for Hart, previously told Fox News that the Iowa court process wasn’t the proper remedy to ensure all votes were counted. Hart’s campaign says at least 30 military and overseas ballots were excluded from the official tally and thousands of other ballots were never examined for voter intent during the recount — more than enough votes to impact the outcome of the race.
“This isn’t about party politics, it’s about ensuring that the voices of Iowans were heard,” Kilburg told Fox News last week. “The Federal Contested Elections Act was passed and signed into law specifically to handle elections where there are concerns about the process and a careful examination is needed. These next steps will allow the time necessary to ensure that all Iowans have their voices heard. That simply wouldn’t have been possible in the Iowa court process.”
Iowa Republican officials have lined up in favor of Miller-Meeks. Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Joni Ernst, Rep.-elect Ashley Hinson and Rep.-elect Randy Feenstra sent a letter to House leadership and the House administration committee leaders urging them not to take up Hart’s petition saying it would “create a dangerous precedent.”
Meanwhile, Miller-Meeks is preparing her congressional offices and planning to be sworn in as the new congresswoman from Iowa’s 2nd District on Jan. 3.
“Following a recount in which we prevailed and certification by the Iowa Secretary of State with the unanimous support of the bipartisan Executive Council, I’m moving forward with the most important congressional duty, which is serving the people of eastern and southern Iowa,” Miller-Meeks said in a statement to Fox News last week. “I’m looking at setting up our district office locations and equipment given the size of the district and potential changes with redistricting. Our most important function will be helping to address the concerns of constituents and we want to be prepared to do that as soon as I am sworn in on Jan. 3.”
Fox News’ Kelly Phares contributed to this report.