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Stray Thoughts

U.S. House is wrong place to decide who won

12/7/2020

Tone-deaf.

That’s the dismal state of the political discourse in our nation these days.

Regrettably, Iowa has an all-too-prominent role in this bumbling lack of awareness of how our democracy is being eaten away by the people who want to be our leaders.

Pour yourself a glass of Maalox. You will need it, because your acid indigestion will flare up before we get far in today’s discussion.

Donald Trump has spent every day since voting concluded on Nov. 3 trying to convince the American people that he handily won. 

Prep Iowa

He has claimed Democrats rigged the election against him and stole his victory. He wants us to believe election officials in a half dozen states, red ones and blue ones, dumped hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots into the hopper to allow Joe Biden to wipe out Trump’s lead.

A majority of the Republican Party’s officeholders in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals across the land have been mute when asked about the president’s claims or the court challenges that judges have dismissed one after another.

These Republican officials insist a Biden victory still has not been nailed down. They have tap-danced so skillfully around the evidence to the contrary that you might think they trained with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.

Democrats, on the other hand, have accused the president and his allies of undermining the sanctity of our elections by refusing to admit the reality — that Biden received more electoral votes than Trump, 306 to 232.

But Democrats are not off the hook, and this is where Iowa comes into the picture. So, pour yourself another Maalox.

Of the roughly 470 members of U.S. House and Senate who were chosen by voters on Nov. 3, there was no race anywhere that was closer than the squeaker in southeast Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. 

The race to succeed the retiring Representative Dave Loebsack pits Democrat Rita Hart, a former teacher and state senator from Wheatland, against Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, an ophthalmologist and state senator from Ottumwa.

Out of 394,000 ballots cast in the district, a mere 6 votes separated the two when the state canvassing board met last week and officially certified Miller-Meeks as the winner.

The outcome was in doubt for a month — through days of counting ballots, waiting for mailed ballots to arrive, deciding on provisional ballots, and then recounting everything by tabulating machines or by hand.   

In the end, Miller-Meeks was declared the victor. But Hart’s campaign questions the decision by election officials in some counties to not inspect ballots by hand that the counting machines rejected.

Hart had the option of going to the Iowa Supreme Court to challenge the outcome of the state canvass. That process would have had the chief justice and four district court judges deciding whether the disputed ballots should be included in the totals or not.

Hart decided against a court challenge, however, because Iowa election laws give such special election courts only days to reach their decision.

Instead of heading to court, Hart said she would ask the U.S. House to review what she said were errors in the recount process. This sets up the potential for the narrow Democratic majority in the House to vote to set aside Miller-Meeks’ victory and seat Hart, instead. 

Democrats came to Hart’s defense and said all legally cast ballots in the race deserve to be counted. They noted that what Hart is doing is legally permissible. Iowa state law and federal laws allow candidates for House seats to file a state court challenge or to file a petition with the U.S. House under the federal contested election law.

But Iowa Republican Party chairman Jeff Kaufmann accused Hart of trying to “steal” the House seat from Miller-Meeks.

Kaufmann’s assertion oozes with irony because his candidate for president has done the exact same thing Hart is — using the legal avenues available to him in his quest prevail in the election. 

It bears noting that the percentage of difference in the 2nd District is a significantly more microscopic than the margin in the states where Trump is challenging the vote totals.

Take another swig of Maalox.

What was Hart thinking by asking politicians in Washington, rather than judges in Iowa, to rule on her claim that not all legally cast ballots were counted?

Does she really think this is how ordinary Iowans want their members of Congress to be chosen?

And who really thinks it would be smart for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to put her members through the public pressure cooker by asking them to vote to seat Hart, rather than Miller-Meeks — especially at a time when Democrats everywhere are complaining about the president’s refusal to accept the will of the voters?

These are embarrassing questions that Rita Hart needs to answer. ♦

Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com

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