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Will House Democrats steal a congressional seat in Iowa’s 2nd District?

In 1985, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives decided an election and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could do it again.

The day after the election in 1984, Republican Richard McIntyre was ahead of incumbent Democrat Frank McCloskey by 34 votes and after the state’s recount, McIntyre’s lead grew to 418 votes. In the weeks following the election, McIntyre was certified the winner of Indiana’s 8th District.

But come January 1985, House Democrats refused to seat McIntyre.

Instead, McCloskey filed a federal contest with the House and Democrats sent a partisan task force to Indiana. They then determined ballots not valid under Indiana law should have been counted.

They changed the rules. Under the new rules, McCloskey was now ahead by 4 votes.

On May 1, 1985, the House voted to seat McCloskey. Ten Democrats joined every Republican in voting against seating him.

This contest was dubbed the “Bloody Eighth” and House Democrats gearing up to repeat this same battle in Iowa’s 2nd District where the Democrat candidate, Rita Hart, intends to file a federal contest in the House to challenge the Republican, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who has been certified the winner by the state of Iowa.

Democrats are looking to change the rules of the game after the game has already been played, which is something they have tried to do throughout the 2020 cycle. In court case after court case, Washington Democrats have sought to change the rules people in that state vote under — even after voting has already begun. One example in the last election is in North Carolina where Democrats tried to change the requirements for absentee ballots even after 300,000 voters had already cast their ballots. This would mean some voters would cast their ballots under a different set of rules than the rest of North Carolina.

In Iowa’s 2nd District, every legal vote was counted and we know this because the votes were counted and recounted using a timely, transparent, and bipartisan process. Bipartisan recount boards in all 24 counties — including a member appointed by the Miller-Meeks campaign, a member appointed by the Hart campaign, and their agreed upon third member — conducted the recount. Following the recount, Iowa’s bipartisan State Canvassing Board voted unanimously to declare Rep.-elect Dr. Miller-Meeks the winner on Nov. 30.

Under Iowa law, if a candidate disagreed with the state’s certification, they could still challenge this decision in Iowa courts. In court, the candidate needs to prove there are votes that have not been counted that should have been. However, Hart chose to forgo this step and instead, announced on Dec. 2 that she would move to file a federal contest where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats, instead of Iowans, would decide what votes are legal and which ones are not.

Hart most likely skipped over this process because her claims of additional votes under Iowa law are illegitimate and she would not be able to win her case in court. But if Washington Democrats change the rules, perhaps she can prevail.

The House taking up this federal contest would tell candidates everywhere that you don’t need to exhaust all of your appeal options within your state. Just bring your case to the House and if your party is in charge, they’ll change the rules to make sure you win. This is a terrible message to send.

I’m hoping my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will think long and hard if they want a repeat of the “Bloody Eighth” because there will come a time when the shoe is on the other foot.

The partisan federal contest of 1985 eroded public trust in our elections and undermined the integrity of our election process. Moving forward with a federal contest in Iowa’s 2nd District — when the candidate’s judicial option was not even pursued – would be purely a political decision, especially given Speaker Pelosi’s razor-thin majority.

House Democrats have a choice to make: stand with Iowans or Speaker Pelosi?

I hope my colleagues decide against overriding the people of Iowa’s 2nd District and seat Rep-elect Miller-Meeks on Jan. 3.

Davis is ranking member of the Committee on House Administration, which has jurisdiction over election policy and federal contests filed with the House.

Tags contested election Nancy Pelosi

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