|The statewide statistical reports for previous general elections illustrate how Iowa Democrats have made early voting an increasingly important part of their GOTV strategy during the past decade. You can download those reports as pdf files on this page of the Iowa Secretary of State's website.
||total Democratic vote
||Democrats voting early
||total Republican vote
||Republicans voting early
||total no-party vote
||no-party voting early
During the 2000 general election, absentee ballots accounted for only about a quarter of Iowa Democrats and Republicans who participated. But in 2008, nearly half of the Iowa Democrats who voted cast early ballots, whereas less than a third of Republicans who participated cast early ballots.
Although midterm election turnout is quite different from presidential election turnout (especially in the low number of no-party voters who cast ballots), I added the 2010 figures to show how Iowa Republicans improved their early GOTV two years ago. They went into election day only slightly trailing Iowa Democrats in terms of absentee voting.
So far this year, Iowa Democrats have requested about five times as many absentee ballots statewide as Republicans, but GOP officials promise that ratio will shift during the next few weeks.
Democrats are pushing neighborhood canvassing and labor union vote drives to lock up votes before Election Day, said Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky. Her party needs to generate lots of support through early voting to counter massive spending by outside interests supporting Republicans, she said.
"This is a critical piece of our organization," she said. "We do it well, and this time we are going to do it very well."
Matt Strawn, former Iowa GOP party chairman, said political analysts should take the Democrats' commanding lead in absentee ballot requests with a grain of salt.
Strawn acknowledges Democrats were helped in the 2006 and 2008 elections by making early voting a priority. But he said the Iowa GOP made big gains in early voting in 2010, helping the party capture the governor's office and other key races.
The Iowa Republicans' playbook is simply different than the Democrats', Strawn said. They will make their big push later, including a mailing to 1 million Iowans, he said. That will close the gap for absentee ballots in coming weeks, he predicted.
"The Romney campaign in Iowa and the coordinated Republican campaign" for all Iowa GOP candidates "is building upon the efforts that we had in 2010. So it will be a larger-scale operation" for early voting this fall, Strawn said.
My household received two robocalls yesterday urging us to vote early. The Republican National Committee paid for the first call, which referenced an absentee ballot application that we should have received recently in the mail. Iowa Democratic Party Chair Dvorsky's voice was on the other call, thanking me for voting early in the past and reminding me of the absentee ballot request form that arrived about a month ago. The RNC call encouraged me to mail in my application, as did Dvorsky's voice message, but Dvorsky also provided the GottaVote website address. That address takes you to the Obama campaign's early voting page for Iowa. The Romney campaign's website doesn't have a special early voting page; rather, the link on the Iowa page labeled "Learn how to VOTE ABSENTEE" clicks through to the Secretary of State's website.
The Obama campaign sent speakers to some Iowa cities yesterday to promote early voting. Today many county Democratic parties are organizing breakfast events, followed by group walks to the local auditor's office to "be the first" to vote. A fairly big crowd had gathered at Java Joe's in downtown Des Moines by 7 am this morning.
I prefer voting early in person to mailing my ballot. If you plan to do so, either at the county auditor's office or at a satellite location to open next month, I recommend reviewing a sample ballot first, so that you have time to research ballot initiatives and candidates for more obscure offices. The Polk County Auditor's website lets you download a sample ballot on this page after you enter your precinct. I'm still looking for more information about some of the candidates for Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner, County Hospital Trustee, and County Agricultural Extension Council in Polk County.
Each county auditor should provide information on its website regarding any satellite voting locations. For instance, click here (pdf) for details on where and when people can vote at 24 satellite locations in Polk County.
The Mason City Globe-Gazette reported yesterday on an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation probe into "possible fraud involving requests for absentee ballots in Floyd County."
Floyd County Auditor Gloria Carr said her office became aware of some possible irregularities on Monday, Sept. 24.
"We had some questionable signatures on absentee ballot request forms and so we passed the information on to the County Attorney's office and the Secretary of State's office," Carr said.
Carr didn't provide further details, such as the party affiliation of the voters in whose name questionable signatures were submitted.
I will update this post as needed today and tomorrow.
UPDATE: Cross-posting the latest absentee ballot numbers from the page I'm updating daily.
Absentee ballots requested by Iowa voters as of September 26, 2012
Absentee ballots received by Iowa county auditors as of September 26, 2012
SECOND UPDATE: Representative Bruce Braley voted early today in Black Hawk County. Many Iowa House and Senate candidates also voted early.
O.Kay Henderson reported for Radio Iowa,
In addition to early voting at your county auditor's office, state law allows voting at so-called "satellite" sites for at least one day before the November 6th General Election. Anyone who collects 100 signatures on a petition can ask for a specific satellite voting site in their county. Crawford County Auditor Terri Martens says as a result of petitions, she's preparing two satellite voting sites in Denison.
"The name of the locations are La Jaliscience Tienda and Tienda El Mexicano," Martens says. "They are both Hispanic grocery stores."
Voting will be allowed at both stores for one day, from noon to six. A wide variety of "satellite" voting options are available throughout the state, with one-day voting sites in public libraries and even in churches.
Democrats petitioned to have a polling site open on the University of Northern Iowa campus tomorrow - the same day First Lady Michelle Obama will be in Cedar Falls for an early afternoon rally. The Romney campaign plans an early voting rally today in Cedar Rapids, featuring Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Actor Jason Alexander who played George Costanza on the long-running TV comedy "Seinfeld" is in Des Moines today for early voting events, including a cocktail hour at brew pub.