Democratic attorney Marc Elias argued in his latest brief on behalf of defeated congressional candidate Rita Hart that Iowa Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks should be ousted from her seat because, like her fellow House Republicans, she opposes the Democrats’ election overhaul legislation H.R. 1.
Hart lost to Miller-Meeks in 2020 in one of the closest House elections ever, decided in the Republican’s favor by six votes out of more than 394,000 cast. The House Administration Committee, with a 6-3 partisan advantage, is considering an effort by Hart, through her attorney Marc Elias, to evict Miller-Meeks from the seat and install Hart as the rightful winner. Hart’s camp argues 22 legitimate ballots weren’t counted, which would have made for a different result.
House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren has asked both sides to lay out the merits of their cases. Lofgren made clear the burden of proof on not just the contestant Hart, but also Miller-Meeks, who the Iowa Canvassing Board certified the winner of the election back in November and was sworn in as a member of Congress on Jan. 3.
However, a growing divide is happening in the Democratic caucus over the Iowa House race contest, as more rank-and-file frontline Democrats speak out against Hart’s petition to the committee.
While the committee’s six Democrats represent safe districts are sympathetic about Hart continuing her election challenge in Washington, Hart’s team of high-powered D.C. lawyers, in their briefing, attempt to appeal to the entire Democratic caucus through a Democratic political narrative, concluding that Miller-Meeks must be removed.
And Elias, in his 23-page response to Lofgren, said opposition to Democratic voting rights legislation is a reason to overturn the 2nd Congressional District outcome from last November.
“Contestee Miller-Meeks’s adamant opposition to Contestant Hart’s efforts to count these lawful ballots is alarming, but not surprising. Her obstruction is consistent with her party’s outright hostility to fundamental democratic norms, from the baseless attempts of its standard-bearer and his allies to throw out hundreds of thousands of lawful votes and overturn the will of the people last November, to its refusal to uniformly condemn the assault on our democracy that unfolded on January 6, to its unanimous opposition to the For the People Act and other legislative efforts to safeguard the vote, to its open hostility to this attempt to prevent the disenfranchisement of 22 Iowans,” Elias writes.
He adds, “The position of Contestee Miller-Meeks and the Republican Party is now clear: the right to vote is worthy of neither respect nor protection.”
However, Miller-Meeks was one of 83 House Republicans who voted to certify the electoral votes of the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6. A Republican lawyer familiar with the contest told the Washington Examiner that Elias’s briefing shows Hart’s legal team shifted their messaging as a result of more House Democrats speaking out against Hart’s contest.
“They recognize that they are absolutely losing the messaging war and they are losing their own caucus in the House. They are shifting over to using this as a vehicle to talk about H.R. 1, which means the rhetoric is going to get even more ridiculous, I think, from the Marc Elias camp,” he said. “They want to turn Rita Hart into a story about having no serious rules into how voting works. To me, when I read this, they know that they’ve lost this thing already.”
Miller-Meeks’s legal team submitted their own 16-page brief in response to the committee’s request, arguing the committee needs to follow Iowa law in its review of the contest. However, the Iowa Republican’s attorneys say the committee is creating a process for requesting information on a procedure from the contestee, Miller-Meeks, on legal principles and timelines, for example, which switches the burden of proof on to the congresswoman. This, they say, violates the Federal Contested Elections Act.
“Instead, the question leapfrogs the statutory discovery procedures in the FCEA, flips the burden of proof to Congresswoman Miller-Meeks and seeks to require that she prematurely put on a defense to Hart’s allegations,” the Miller-Meeks legal team writes. “That is not appropriate and contrary to the FCEA. Congresswoman Miller-Meeks is the certified winner, and the certificate of election she holds is afforded a strong presumption of legality and correctness.”
The brief adds, “At this pre-discovery stage of the contest, the FCEA makes clear that the Contestee’s obligations are minimal; she need only admit or deny Hart’s allegations, or say nothing at all.”
Elias, though, argues that previous House contests required both parties to answer questions about related to “case-specific questions to facilitate the resolution of contested election cases,” citing a handful of previous House contests.
“There is, in short, nothing untoward, suspect, or otherwise unprecedented about Chairperson Lofgren’s request that the parties answer questions regarding the ‘specific procedures, legal principles, and timelines that should control the course of the contested election case and facilitate the case’s disposition,’” he said.
Original Author: Kerry Picket