Republican Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks said her attorney conducted “due diligence” to look for rejected ballots in the Iowa 2nd Congressional District. The search comes as the recently sworn in representative prepares for the prospect of defending her six-vote victory in front of the US House.
Her opponent, former Democratic State Senator Rita Hart, identified 22 ballot papers that voters say were legally cast but not properly removed from the list. If counted, says Hart, the ballots would change the outcome of the race, the country’s closest federal competition in the 2020 cycle.
Miller-Meeks had previously said that every legal ballot in the race for Southeast Iowa had already been counted after it was previously determined that some votes for them had in fact been removed from the official list. Hart’s campaign has claimed that recent efforts by the Miller-Meeks legal team to hunt down rejected ballots contradict their argument that the census is settled.
Miller-Meeks spoke to reporters Friday, describing the search as a routine fact-finding process.
“In any process that is legal process, you have to make discoveries and do your due diligence, and that’s part of … part of it,” said Miller-Meeks.
The Quad-City Times first reported this week that Miller-Meeks attorney Alan Ostergren had reached out to a county auditing bureau for a list of all rejected ballots. The Iowa City press citizen reported Friday that the search extended to multiple counties, but only those that Miller-Meeks carried handily.
Ostergren spoke to reporters on Friday and denied that the campaign was only focusing on republican districts. The search for other rejected ballots is still ongoing.
“This is an ongoing process and we will continue to work hard on it,” said Ostergren. “So no one said we were done with this process. And we examine all the facts there are. “
Miller-Meeks was provisional in Congress after a group of state officials confirmed they had promoted the district with just six votes. A victory she may have to defend if the property management committee takes up Hart’s challenge.
Hart is asking the House for a thorough review and full recount of the race. He argues that at least 22 ballots were mistakenly missed and that thousands of under and over votes were never checked by hand.
Miller-Meeks has petitioned for the case to be dismissed, arguing that “more than a century” of precedent forced the House to reject the challenge because Hart did not appeal to a state court first. However, the precedent is not necessarily legally binding.
Earlier this week, Hart filed a response to Miller-Meek’s motion for dismissal, which her campaign said represents an attempt to disenfranchise voters.
On Friday afternoon, the Hart campaign issued a statement claiming that all legal votes should be counted.
“After the news this morning, it is clear that Mariannette Miller-Meeks now agrees that there are Iowans whose votes are still counting in Iowa’s Second Congressional District,” Hart Campaign manager Zach Meunier said in a written statement . “She has admitted this in the past, and while publicly struggling to disenfranchise Iowans, Miller-Meeks has been secretly looking for her own ballot papers to count.”
On Friday, Ostergren didn’t say whether the Miller-Meeks legal team would ultimately try to count more ballots, saying it was too early in the legal process to discuss the matter on the matter.
“We reserve the judgment for a process in which we can work out everything we should do fairly and fully,” said Ostergren. “But we’re not there yet and it would be premature and counterproductive for us to go into these details.”
The Property Management Committee will determine the next steps for the case. After the new congress began, members were called to the committee, but no meetings were scheduled until Friday.