Unlike Mr. Trump and many other officials who have made election appeals to the House, Ms. Hart is not claiming there was fraud at play in the result. Instead, her campaign has identified 22 ballots that they believe were legally cast but “wrongfully” uncounted by state election officials during a districtwide recount in the fall. Among them are ballots that were cast curbside by disabled people but not accepted by voting machines, one that was discarded because it was sealed with tape, another that was signed in the wrong place, and a few that simply were not included in the tallying because of clerical errors.
If they had been, Ms. Hart says that she, not Ms. Miller-Meeks, would have won the election by nine votes.
“Congress has an obligation to ensure not just that people have a right to vote, but a right to have their vote counted,” Marc E. Elias, Ms. Hart’s lawyer, told reporters on Tuesday. “Right now, at its core, we have 22 voters who have had their right to have their vote counted denied.”
Lawyers for Ms. Miller-Meeks say Ms. Hart’s complaint amounts to a disagreement with the judgment of bipartisan state election officials who decided which ballots to count. That, they argue, is simply not a good enough reason for the House to intervene, particularly after Ms. Hart declined to first press her case in Iowa state court last year before the contest was certified.
“The idea that the House would intervene is an extraordinary step,” said Alan R. Ostergren, a lawyer for Ms. Miller-Meeks, who has quickly earned a reputation as a rare moderate in her party. “Normally, a contestant would have to show fraud or irregularities. They would have to do more than she has done here, which is pointing out ordinary decisions about handling ballots and ordinary application of Iowa law.”
The fight could become costly. Democrats on the committee have already retained outside counsel from Jenner & Block, a firm based in Chicago, and Republicans have tapped Donald F. McGahn II, a former White House counsel and Republican elections lawyer, to advise them. The committee may also have to reimburse both candidates’ legal fees, which are currently being covered by each of their party’s campaign committees.