Opinion | Why Are Democrats Following Trump’s Post-Election Playbook?

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Well, the principled stand Democrats took against Congress trying to overturn duly certified elections lasted all of a month or two.

After rightly excoriating their Republican colleagues for challenging on Jan. 6 the results certified by the states in the presidential election, House Democrats immediately turned to doing, in effect, the exact same thing in an Iowa congressional district their candidate lost by six votes.

Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks won Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District by the narrowest of margins over Democrat Rita Hart. There was a recount, which narrowed her lead further, but didn’t overturn it, and Iowa certified her victory. Hart chose not to challenge the result in the Iowa courts, and by any reasonable standard—and certainly by the standard Democrats so stirringly enunciated on Jan. 6 and afterward—that should have been the end of it.

But Hart is petitioning for the House to overturn the election, and the House Administration Committee is now reviewing the case. POLITICO Playbook reported earlier in the week that the effort to overturn the election “has been blessed by the top echelons of House Democratic leadership.”


As far as Speaker Pelosi and Co. are concerned, it’s “honor the results of elections for thee, but not for me.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is paying for top Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias, who fought Donald Trump in election cases before and after Nov. 3, to represent Hart.

A brief for Miller-Meeks persuasively points to precedent for the House refusing to hear cases that the contesting candidate didn’t take up in the state courts first.

The Elias brief for Hart offers a tinny excuse for avoiding a contest court in Iowa. It states that Hart did now know about all of the 22 ballots she considers improperly discarded until Dec. 1 and that meant there simply wasn’t enough time to go through the court (it would have been made up of the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court and four district court judges).

Surely, though, the contest court would have been cognizant of the time constraints and expedited the proceedings, which would have centered around those 22 contested ballots. If the court couldn’t have made a determination in a week’s time to meet the Dec. 8 deadline for final determination of a contest, presumably the deadline could have been pushed back. (Hart, who is asking for all sorts of rules around ballots to be ignored, is not in a strong position to be a stickler over deadlines.)

The decision to skip the contest court and go directly to the House of Representatives is transparently an effort to bypass a body that aspires to neutrality in favor of one that does not, and to avoid a decision based on Iowa law to seek one based on the partisan interests of fellow Democrats.

This is how it’s been interpreted by newspaper editorial boards in Iowa.

Sure enough, Elias has basically put the point in black and white. Quoting from the last case when a Democratic-controlled House overturned an election (in 1985 to award an Indiana seat to a Democrat), his brief says the committee is “certainly not bound” to follow Iowa law and indeed, “there are instances where it is in fact bound by justice and equity to deviate from it.”

Hart doesn’t allege any fraud or irregularity in the consideration of the ballots she says now should count, or even partisan favoritism. She just found 22 ballots she wants to count that would put her over the top.

There’s a question about the provenance of some of the 22 ballots she’s highlighting, and others clearly run afoul of Iowa law. Five involve absentee ballots whose envelopes weren’t sealed, as required by statute. Another two ballots, which under the law must be returned by Election Day, didn’t reach the counties where the voters reside in time.

The decisions about these ballots were all close calls that election officials have to make, using the law and their best judgment, all the time.

Not coincidentally, by the way, all but four of the 22 ballots are for Hart. One can safely assume that a more systematic canvass of the district would turn up similar determinations that went against Miller-Meeks.


But we shouldn’t want close elections to be endlessly litigated and re-litigated in drawn-out battles over who can, after the fact and straining against the limits of the law, turn up more voters who claim their ballots were improperly rejected.

Iowa has a robust and clean election system through which the voters of the 2nd District have spoken.

To overturn their verdict based on a selective, self-interested collection of dubious ballots would be a partisan travesty, which is exactly why Rita Hart is asking the partisan Democratic House to do it.

The very casual observer could have been forgiven for thinking that Democrats, given their vehemence and passion around Jan. 6, sincerely believed that it’s wrong on principle to question the legitimacy of election outcomes signed, sealed and delivered to Congress.

Marc Elias, for one, knew better.

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