Editorial: House Democrats shouldn’t overrule an Iowa Republican’s victory
A Democratic congressional candidate from Iowa who lost a close election last year is hoping that the House will overturn the state-certified result. Tempted as they may be by the prospect of padding their slim majority, House Democrats should reject her request.
Democrats displayed proper revulsion when some House Republicans attempted to overturn President Biden’s 2020 victories in key states. Overturning the result of an election their party lost would invite inevitable accusations of hypocrisy.
The result in the race for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District was breathtakingly close. The final tally was 196,964 for Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks and 196,958 for Democrat Rita Hart.
Miller-Meeks has taken the oath of office, but Hart has refused to concede, claiming that 22 votes in her favor weren’t counted. A filing by her lawyer with the House Administration Committee, citing a 1985 precedent, argues that in determining who should occupy the seat, the House committee “is certainly not bound to” follow state law. Notably, Hart didn’t challenge the outcome in state court.
In 1985, the Democratic-controlled House declared Democrat Frank McCloskey the rightful occupant of an Indiana congressional seat even though his Republican opponent, Richard D. McIntyre, had been certified the winner. Republican members walked out in protest, accusing Democrats of “abuse of power” and “legislative tyranny.”
Similar accusations can be expected if the House votes to replace Miller-Meeks with Hart. Never mind that 139 House Republicans voted to disregard the state-certified results in at least one state won by Biden and toss out those electoral votes, a far worse attack on democracy.
It’s true that the Constitution says each house of Congress “shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members.” A federal statute, the Federal Contested Elections Act, sets rules for challenges, including a requirement that the challenger prove that the election results entitle him or her to the disputed seat.
Some Democrats might be attracted by the prospect of flipping the result in the Iowa district, but others recognize the dangers. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) tweeted: “Losing a House election by six votes is painful for Democrats. But overturning it in the House would be even more painful for America. Just because a majority can does not mean a majority should.”
Phillips is right. Unless an investigation produces incontestable evidence that Hart actually won the election, House Democrats should do what they wanted House Republicans to do about last year’s presidential election — accept defeat graciously and prepare for the next election.
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