Belying their rhetoric regarding the undemocratic structure of the electoral college and US Senate, Democrats may soon hold on to two US House of Representative seats without winning through either the vote or by court decision.
The 2020 election is already cemented in the popular consciousness as a point where the result will lead to less unity and consensus over the legitimacy of the victor and the process. As of this writing President Donald Trump is disputing the official vote in the states of Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin that shows his opponent Vice President Joe Biden winning. A critical sum of 79 electoral votes are held by those states and the removal of more than 36 of them from Biden’s total would create a stalemate and a constitutional crisis possibly resolved by House delegations voting instead of the electors. President Trump is pursuing multiple avenues to block those state electors including electoral process challenges, lawsuits in state and federal courts, and even resolutions by state legislatures to withhold electors due to voting irregularities and possible fraud. Many of the issues in dispute are being smothered by national media in the interests ostensibly of preventing Trump from undermining the integrity of the election, even though all of his efforts are made within the legal framework of state and federal electoral law.
Less well known are the two US House seats currently in dispute. On the national level the 2020 election was a less than resounding endorsement of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who will likely be completing her 20th year as leader of the Democrats in the chamber by the end of the next term. So far her party has lost ten seats, many of them wiping out gains made during the 2018 midterms. Remarkably some of the losses came in solidly Democratic states like. These districts include rural (western Minnesota), suburban/exurban (Orange County) and even urban areas (Staten Island). The two districts in question had victory margins that were so narrow that it has now taken over a month to decide them:
- In Anthony Brindisi’s Utica centered New York 22nd District he trails GOP opponent Claudia Tenney by a mere 12 votes but a judge has ordered that a full recount be conducted after Brindisi disputed the counting processes.
- In Iowa’s 2nd District Mariannette Miller-Meeks leads her Democrat opponent Rita Hart by an even narrower six votes.
If the results were to hold in these races the Democrats would hold a mere eight vote majority in the House. That means that for full votes on the floor Pelosi would require all hands on deck and the enforcement of full discipline by her party’s leadership including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) in order to pass items on the party’s agenda. House reps will have less bandwidth to travel to their home districts to hold town halls, canvass voters, or attend fundraisers. Add to this the possible appointment of Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and the majority could shrink to seven. But even then it is not so simple, as GOP challenges in court relating to multiples races in Pennsylvania could narrow the lead even further. In essence, Pelosi’s majority is secure but not functionally useful.
But according to multiple reports she may be able to keep the two disputed districts through an obscure and rarely used process: The Democratic candidates can petition the House to investigate and overturn the election results and have Brindisi and Hart seated. The Rita Hart campaign has signaled that it won’t even bother with the court challenges and instead will petition directly to the House Administration Committee that effects the process. Neither the actual vote tally nor legal decisions are needed to validate the decision.
This means that a committee of the body to which the two candidates are attempting to be elected can simply rule to seat them through a party line vote over the will of the voters and the ruling of the judiciary as if they are the board of a home owners association approving new residents. While this is rare, it is not without precedent as in 1984 a race in Indiana’s 8th District was awarded to incumbent Democrat Frank McCloskey despite the state certifying that his GOP opponent Rick McIntyre had won by 34 votes. Subsequent recounts helped to widen McIntyre’s lead, but the Democrat controlled House refused to seat McIntyre until the Administration Committee conducted its own audit and then voted to seat McCloskey after their process found he had won by a just four votes. The decision was proved by a general House membership vote on May 8, 1985, six months after the 1984 election.
So this process would be both legal and with precedent. If undertaken it would contradict much of the Democrat and left-wing narrative about the structure of American elections and legislatures. Liberal critics have long derided the electoral college as undemocratic for usurping the will of the people to elect the president by allowing scenarios where the candidate who lost the popular vote is elected by winning enough states to swing the electoral college. They also have condemned the US Senate for allotting two votes to every state regardless off population. Add to this the fact that the electoral college along with voter ID laws have been condemned as “racist” by the same media mavens.
Using the Administration Committee route to seat Hart and Brindisi would be the peak of hypocrisy for an already arrogant party hungry for any surge of power it can get. Unlike in 1984 when Ronald Reagan won in a landslide, the Democrats would be effectively defying the certified results and judicial rulings all while chastising Trump for doing the exact same thing, or in one case not even bothering to go through the court. It just goes to prove that their job is not about serving us, it’s about finding out what they can get away with when no one’s looking.