Rep. Miller-Meeks claims ‘they cheated me down to’ a six-vote win in 2020

Video still of Mariannette Miller-Meeks discussing the election challenge on Iowa Press, Dec. 4, 2020.

A six-vote victory is apparently no longer good enough for Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. During a fundraiser in Davenport on Saturday, Miller-Meeks claimed her margin of victory in last November’s election was so small due to some sort of cheating, the Quad City Times reported.

“I like to say I got elected by more than six votes,” the freshman Republican member of Congress told a crowd of about 90 supporters at the Crow Valley Golf Club. “Six is what they cheated me down to.”

Miller-Meeks, who represents Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, did not explain who the “they” are, how they cheated or what she thinks her actual margin of victory was.

The six-vote win was certified on Nov. 30 by the Iowa Board of Canvas, which is led by Miller-Meeks’ fellow Republican, Iowa Sec. of State Paul Pate. The final tally in the race was 196,964 to 196,958, according to the Board of Canvas.

The race in Iowa’s 2nd District was the closest in the country last year. In the first reported results on Election Day, Miller-Meeks lead her Democratic opponent Rita Hart by 282 votes. The lead in the unofficial vote total changed twice during the week after the election, as Jasper County and Lucas County corrected results that has initially been misreported.

After Jasper County submitted its revised vote total, Hart took the lead by 163 votes, which shrunk to 152 votes following a recount in the county. But after Lucas County amended its vote totals, Miller-Meeks pulled ahead by 47 votes in the unofficial totals posted by the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office.

Following that, Hart requested a recount of votes in all of the district’s 24 counties. That recount concluded on Saturday, as Clinton County finished recounting its ballots. It gave Miller-Meeks a lead of six votes out of the 413,989 ballots cast in the district.

Hart filed a Notice of Contest with the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives using the Federal Contested Elections Act (FCEA) in December. This did prevent Miller-Meeks from being sworn in with the rest of the members of the 117th Congress on Jan. 3.

In her filing, Hart cited 22 votes in the district she said had been properly cast but not counted due to errors by elections officials. In her response to Hart’s Notice of Contest, Miller-Meeks did not dispute that the 22 votes were properly cast, but instead asserted that the House shouldn’t even be considering the challenge, because Hart did not take the final step provided by Iowa law to challenge elections and appeal the certification of the election results to a panel headed by the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court. Miller-Meeks asked that Hart’s challenge be dismissed.

According to Hart, she chose not to take that final state-level step because there would not have been enough time for the panel to fully consider her appeal before the certified vote totals needed to be reported to Congress, and under Iowa law, the panel would only have been able to review the votes included in the official total, not any that might be have been improperly excluded.

The FCEA, signed into law in 1969 to provide a regular form for election challenges, does not require a challenger to exhaust all state-level remedies before asking the House Committee on Administration, which handles election disputes, to consider a case. Also, the committee isn’t bound by state law when determining what votes to review, because the Constitution gives the House the authority to be “the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members.”

On March 11, the House Committee on Administration decided to table Miller-Meeks’ request to dismiss Hart’s challenge and move forward with considering whether to launch an investigation of the election in the 2nd District.

Iowa Senator Rita Hart attends a listening session at the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa. Monday, June 18, 2018. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

The vote by the committee to move forward with the challenge broke down along party lines.

“Today none of us can say with confidence who won this election,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California and the committee’s chair, said when the decision was made. “Our answer must be grounded in hard evidence, not bald assumptions.”

By the time the committee had made that decision, Republicans at the national and state level had already been claiming for months that Hart’s challenge was nothing more than an attempt to steal the seat in the 2nd District.

On March 31, before the committee could begin a formal investigation, Hart withdrew her election challenge citing the “toxic campaign of disinformation” by Republicans.

“Despite our best efforts to have every vote counted, the reality is that the toxic campaign of political disinformation to attack this constitutional review of the closest congressional contest in 100 years has effectively silenced the voices of Iowans,” Hart said in the statement announcing she had dropped the challenge. “It is a stain on our democracy that the truth has not prevailed and my hope for the future is a return to decency and civility.”

At that time, Miller-Meeks thanked Hart for her decision, and said, “It’s time to move forward, to unite, as one group of people supporting Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District and Iowa.”

Saturday was the first time Miller-Meeks’ claim that her single-digit victory was the result of cheating has been reported.

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