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Rita Hart’s lawyer is at it again, this time he maintains that Democrats can and should contest in any election where they lose in Iowa.
Flashback: The 2020 election finally ended when Hart withdrew her contest of the outcome of Iowa’s Second Congressional District. After losing the election by six votes, Hart failed to challenge the result before a panel of Iowa judges. Instead, Hart, aided by Democrat lawyer Marc Elias, pursued her claims before her fellow partisans in the House of Representatives.
It was a move that left many observers of Iowa politics stunned. Democrats were aghast at the sight of one of their own contesting the result of an election while they were trying to lay the events of January 6 at the U.S. Capitol at the feet of every Republican voter. The disconnect was jarring.
In the end, Hart was forced to withdraw her contest. Moderate Democrats in the House were dropping like flies, recognizing that Hart was proposing they walk the plank politically because she couldn’t get over the fact she lost a close race. The election finally ended on March 31 when Hart announced she was quitting.
One would think that this would be the last we would hear about election contests for quite a while. But Hart’s lawyer has just blasted out a warning to us all that we may be in for perpetual election contests whenever a Democrat loses a race.
Elias is furious that Iowa and several other states have enacted election integrity laws this year. He has boasted on his Twitter feed about suing these states. (Although, as an aside, he isn’t actually on any of these new cases after getting sanctioned by a federal appeals court. Seems that Elias is embarrassed to have to list that punishment when he asks courts to let him appear in a case even though he isn’t licensed to practice in that state.)
Elias’ law firm is suing Iowa to prevent enforcement of its new election laws. It is also in litigation in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and Montana. And this is where Elias’ threat of election contests comes in.
Elias claims that Congress should refuse to seat Members who “benefit from discriminatory voting laws.” The precedent for his argument? He cites a 1965 election contest where a losing African American candidate for Congress challenged the state of Mississippi’s intentional disenfranchisement of Black voters. Only 3% of eligible Black Mississippians were registered to vote before the Voting Rights Act forced that state and many others to end their practices of overt discrimination. (Elias seems to forget his history as it was Democrats who implemented these discriminatory practices.)
A startling comparison, isn’t it? Elias looks at things like Iowa’s law that permits 20 days of no-excuse absentee voting (compared with many states that prohibit it entirely) and thinks it is the same thing as Jim Crow-style wholesale oppression of Black voters. His argument is both silly and insulting at the same time.
It would be one thing if Elias was just some nutter on social media spouting off about Republicans. But he is not. He sits in the middle of a vast dark money network that funds lawsuits against the enforcement of election laws. He is also the lawyer of choice for most Democratic candidates. When he says something, it is essentially Democratic Party policy.
And what a policy it would be. Imagine the spectacle of every losing Democratic candidate for federal office contesting the result of the election before the House or Senate. In Elias’s view, it wouldn’t matter whether these candidates could show any violation of Iowa election law in the result that showed the other candidate won. Elias would simply wave his hand at Iowa law, mumble “voter suppression, and expect the House and Senate to seat his favored candidates over the will of Iowans.
No serious person can honestly argue that the laws in Iowa are anything like what Democrats used to oppress Black voters in Mississippi and elsewhere. He appears ready to just burn down the whole system because legislators in some states dare to put some integrity and order back into the election laws.
Iowa Democrats need to stand up to this nonsense. Do they embrace or reject what Elias proposes? Do they think that Iowans or politicians in Washington, D.C., should decide who represents them?
Rita Hart paid a terrible political price for following Marc Elias’s legal and political advice. Will other Iowa Democrats put themselves in the same position?