By Tom Barton, Quad-City Times
More than a month after Democrat Rita Hart identified 22 ballots that she claimed were legally cast but not counted, an Iowa lawyer for Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks is now searching for rejected ballots.
Miller-Meeks was provisionally sworn in as a new member of Congress last month after state officials confirmed the election results. Hart has asked the U.S. home to investigate and overturn the race that state officials lost to Miller-Meeks by six votes in all 24 counties after a nationwide recount.
According to an email and a county polling officer, a Miller-Meeks attorney contacted the Appanoose county’s office on Monday and asked for copies of any rejected envelopes.
The Appanoose County auditor’s office provided two envelopes, according to an email, which were rejected because they were received after noon on November 9.
Appanoose County auditor Kelly Howard could not be reached and did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
The Miller-Meeks legal team filed a dismissal motion last month, arguing that “more than a century of precedent” required Hart to exhaust all state-level appeals before taking her case to Congress.
However, the federal law of 1969, according to which Hart questions the election result, does not require that all state legal challenges be exhausted. The house is not necessarily bound by previous precedents, either.
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Separately, Miller-Meeks attorney Alan Ostergren alleges Hart failed to prove she was eligible for the seat, arguing that her attorneys “picked” ballots in her favor, “which pose routine election administration problems that everyone faces Election occur in each county ”. However, Miller-Meeks’ motion to dismiss did not contain any additional untold votes.
Speaking to reporters last month, Ostergren said the legal team has not yet reached the point of “providing specific examples.”
“These kinds of issues would be investigated,” Ostergren said, should the House of Representatives Administrative Committee decide to take up and hear the merits of Hart’s competition motion.
He didn’t return a message on Wednesday asking for a comment.
“The legal team, working on behalf of Congressman Miller-Meeks, works on all legal and factual issues arising from Rita Hart’s efforts to overturn the results of these elections,” said Eric Woolson, Miller-Meeks campaign spokesman. “We cannot comment on the details of our strategy.”
Hart’s legal team filed a response in Parliament Tuesday to Miller-Meeks’ motion to dismiss, reiterating the need to ensure that all legally cast ballots are counted.
“Ultimately, Miller-Meeks’ focus on people trial fails on both principle and legal grounds, and she has no material objection to the counting of the 22 identified votes,” Hart attorney Marc Elias said in a statement. “These disenfranchised Iowa voters deserve their ballots to be counted.”
If the 22 ballots had been counted, Hart of Wheatland would have won by nine votes.
By Tom Barton, Quad-City Times