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2014 elections

IA-Sen polling seen as proof of "herding" by pollsters

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Nov 22, 2014 at 07:35:00 AM CST

Still catching up on post-election analysis. As you may recall, the final poll of Iowa's U.S. Senate race by Selzer & Co differed greatly from all other polls taken during the final week of that campaign. Usually "outliers" are inaccurate, but in this case only the Selzer poll was close to predicting Joni Ernst's final margin over Bruce Braley. This problem wasn't limited to Iowa; as a whole, U.S. Senate polling in 2014 was less accurate than Senate polling in other recent election years. In three states, the polling average missed the final result by more than 10 points. Polls were skewed toward Democratic candidates in most of the competitive states.

Nate Silver argued last week that "herding" by pollsters contributed to errors in polling the IA-Sen race, among others. "Herding" refers to a pollster adjusting survey results to avoid releasing findings that look like an outlier. You should click through to read Silver's whole post, but the gist is that as election day approached, IA-Sen polls converged toward a narrow band of findings, showing either a tied race or a small lead for Ernst. Random sampling error should have produced more statistical "noise" and varied results than that. Roughly a third of polls taken should have fallen outside that narrow band.

As I said, sampling error is unavoidable - an intrinsic part of polling. If you've collected enough polls and don't find that at least 32 percent of them deviate from the polling average by 3.5 percentage points,5 it means something funny - like herding - is going on.

It will be interesting to see whether state-level presidential and Senate polls during the 2016 cycle show more variability, or whether pollsters continue the apparent practice of adjusting results to avoid standing out from the crowd. Silver notes that sampling error is just one of many sources of error in polls. Figuring out which people are likely to cast a ballot may be an even bigger problem.

Any relevant thoughts are welcome in this thread.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Three political realities that should worry Republicans

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 16:50:48 PM CST

Republicans had a lot to celebrate on November 4, and Democrats have plenty to worry about after the midterm election debacle.

But all is not rosy in GOP world either. If I were a Republican, I'd be particularly concerned about three things.

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Five political realities that should worry Democrats

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 12:19:45 PM CST

Two weeks after election day, political junkies like me are still processing what happened. Losing control of the U.S. Senate was the most obvious bad outcome for Democrats, but maybe not the most concerning one. The Senate map for 2016 gives Democrats a lot of opportunities to make up ground.

Five other political realities have been bothering me more.  

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Twitter was used in "cutting edge" scheme to evade campaign finance laws

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 23:00:00 PM CST

The Federal Election Commission rarely enforces laws against coordination between political campaigns and groups making independent expenditures for and against candidates. Meanwhile, outside spending is exploding to the point that in some races, independent expenditures dwarf money spent by the candidates.

As a result, each election cycle brings more actions that raise suspicions of campaigns and outside groups coordinating their work. In Iowa's U.S. Senate race, Joni Ernst's campaign magically knew exactly when to launch a very small ad buy to maximal effect--on the same day an outside group released a months-old unflattering video of Bruce Braley. Later on, a super PAC came into existence solely to run a $1 million television commercial targeting Braley, and that super PAC just happened to be headquartered in the same office as a senior consultant for Ernst's campaign.

CNN's Chris Moody reported today on a newly uncovered, brazen scheme to share information between campaigns and political advocacy groups. Click through to read his whole piece about Twitter accounts that communicated polling data from competitive U.S. House races.

At least two outside groups and a Republican campaign committee had access to the information posted to the accounts, according to the source. They include American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Karl Rove; American Action Network, a nonprofit advocacy group, and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is the campaign arm for the House GOP. [...]

The accounts that CNN reviewed were active in the months ahead of this month's election, which gave Republicans their largest majority in the House since World War II and control of the Senate. They were live until Nov. 3 but deleted minutes after CNN contacted the NRCC with questions. [...]

The tweets captured by screenshots stretched back to July, but the groups have communicated in this manner for four years, the source said. Staffers for each group deleted individual tweets every few months, so only the past few months of data were available when CNN first viewed the Twitter accounts.

Deleting online content minutes after a journalist starts asking questions sends a strong signal that these operatives knew they were doing something shady. Moreover, Philip Bump noticed that the American Action Network was one of the biggest outside spenders in the Congressional race in Florida's 26th district. That race was the apparent focus of at least one now-deleted tweet containing polling data, which showed a very close race in FL-26.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Three silver linings from Iowa's 2014 elections

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Nov 07, 2014 at 07:10:00 AM CST

November 4 was a devastating day for Iowa Democrats, but let's look on the bright side for a moment.

1. Democrats held the Iowa Senate majority.

Since 2011, the Iowa Senate has kept us off the disastrous path followed by Kansas, Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states where Republicans control the trifecta. I'm disappointed that with a favorable map, Democrats weren't able to expand their Iowa Senate contingent to 27 or 28. State Senator Daryl Beall was one of the good ones and will be missed by many. But a wave like that could have done a lot more damage.

For at least two more years, the Iowa Senate will continue to be a firewall against all kinds of horrible legislation that Iowa House Republicans will pass and Governor Terry Branstad would sign.

2. Iowa is no longer in a club with Mississippi.

All week, I've been reflecting on the many thoughtful and capable women who have been involved in Iowa politics during my lifetime. Not only Democrats, but also Republicans from Mary Louise Smith to Joy Corning to Mary Lundby and most recently, Mariannette Miller-Meeks. These women cared about public policy and ran for office to get things done. They weren't recruited by strategists who thought they would be a marketable package. For this place in history to go to someone as ignorant and stage-managed as Joni Ernst feels very wrong.

That said, at least my children will not grow up believing that Iowans are too narrow-minded to elect a woman to Congress.

3. The Iowa Supreme Court is more likely to expand voting rights for thousands of non-violent ex-felons.

I had hoped Staci Appel would become Iowa's first woman in Congress, but this wasn't the year to be running against a guy who projects as a generic Republican.

The good news is that Iowa Supreme Court Justice Brent Appel will almost certainly be able to hear a lawsuit expected to be filed soon, which would challenge Iowa's current law on voting rights. In April, a divided Iowa Supreme Court allowed Tony Bisignano to appear on the ballot despite a aggravated misdemeanor conviction. Three of the seven justices indicated that they were prepared to strike down a 1994 law defining all felonies as "infamous crimes," which under the Iowa Constitution lead to the loss of a citizen's voting rights. Three other justices disagreed with that opinion for various reasons and would uphold current law.

Justice Appel recused himself from the Bisignano case, but in other non-unanimous rulings he has usually joined the justices who believe not all felonies should disqualify Iowans from voting (Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justices Daryl Hecht and Bruce Zager).

Iowa Supreme Court justices tend to err on the side of recusing themselves, rather than hearing cases where there could be any appearance of a conflict of interest. Had Staci Appel won on Tuesday, I suspect Brent Appel would not have weighed in on any case affecting who might be able to vote to re-elect his wife. His participation could make the difference between a 3-3 split and a 4-3 majority ruling rendering the legislative definition of an "infamous crime" as unconstitutional. Thousands of Iowans with non-violent felony convictions might then be able to vote, as felons can do in most other states upon completion of their sentences.

UPDATE: When I wrote this post, I didn't know the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa was planning to file a lawsuit today challenging Iowa's restriction on felon voting rights. The ACLU of Iowa is acting on behalf of Kelli Jo Griffin, who was tried and acquitted for voter fraud earlier this year. After the jump I've enclosed the announcement, with more background and detail on the lawsuit.  

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The morning after an election

by: hamatson

Wed Nov 05, 2014 at 16:06:32 PM CST

(Amen to that. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Yes, I am sad this morning. And frustrated. And mad. It's inevitable when you spend the better part of two years campaigning for candidates and ideas you strongly believe it. But I won't spend time bashing the winners or criticizing the campaigns for what they supposedly should or should not have done, although we should most definitely learn from any mistakes. And here is why:
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The case for Jim Mowrer to run in Iowa Senate district 24

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 05, 2014 at 12:53:36 PM CST

A lot of talented, hard-working Democrats lost last night. I can only imagine how exhausted and disappointed they feel. Among others, I'm thinking of Jim Mowrer. He fought the good fight against Representative Steve King, arguably better than King's previous challengers, but the fourth Congressional district is too conservative for any Democrat to have a chance--especially in a Republican wave election.

Mowrer is so bright and capable, many Democrats will want him to stay involved in public service. Even Tom Harkin needed two tries to get elected the first time.

It occurred to me recently that Iowa Senate district 24 will be on the ballot in 2016. The district includes Boone, Greene and Hamilton counties, plus some areas in Webster and Story counties. A detailed map is after the jump. Boone County, where Mowrer grew up and now lives with his wife and children, contains more registered voters than Hamilton and Greene counties combined. Republicans outnumber Democrats in Senate district 24, but no-party voters outnumber both groups, and a lot more of them show up in a presidential year. Both Barack Obama and Christie Vilsack carried Boone County in 2012. Mowrer fell just short of matching King's vote total in Boone yesterday, but he outperformed the top of the ticket by a lot in his home county. He also outpolled Bruce Braley in Hamilton and Greene counties.

Jerry Behn currently represents Iowa Senate district 24. Nancy Boettger's retirement this year leaves Behn as the longest-serving Republican in the Iowa Senate, having won his first race in 1996. For about a year, he was minority leader, but he stepped aside shortly after failing to lead Republicans back into the majority in 2012. Stuck in the minority and locked out of caucus leadership for the foreseeable future, Behn may retire in 2016. His former right-hand man, Brad Zaun, has reportedly been telling people he won't run for re-election again. Even if Behn seeks another term, Mowrer's skill set and background would make him a stronger challenger than anyone Democrats have fielded against Behn lately. I've enclose Mowrer's official bio below.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S. - I know it's "too early" to be talking about 2016, but you wouldn't be here if you weren't a political junkie.

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We needed another six years from Tom Harkin

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 05, 2014 at 07:40:00 AM CST

From the day Senator Tom Harkin announced plans to retire, I had a bad feeling about Iowa Democrats defending an open U.S. Senate seat in a midterm year when Governor Terry Branstad would be on the ballot. Harkin may not have known other retirements would hand several Senate seats to Republicans practically before the campaigns began. He couldn't have anticipated that issues like ISIS terrorism and the ebola outbreak would dominate the media discourse during the last two months of the campaign. He probably didn't expect tens of millions of dollars to come into Iowa, amplifying Bruce Braley's every misstep (plus a bunch of made-up stuff) thousands of times.

I appreciate Harkin's many years of service in Congress and don't mean to begrudge him time with his family. But the bottom line is that if he had sought a sixth term, Republicans would not have fielded a serious Senate candidate in Iowa. Harkin would have cruised against a challenger on the "clown car" level of Christopher Reed.

In the coming days and weeks, plenty of Iowa Democrats will rail against tactical or strategic errors by Braley and his strategists. They'll have a point, but in a year like this, none of it mattered. Candidates who started their campaigns in a stronger position and ran better races (such as Senator Kay Hagan in North Carolina or independent Greg Orman in Kansas) had the same result. Almost every competitive Senate race shifted toward the Republican at the end. Good grief, Senator Mark Warner nearly lost Virginia, which wasn't even on the radar as a potential GOP pickup.

Instead of running for an open Senate seat in 2020 (a presidential election year), Iowa Democrats will have to find a candidate who can compete with the better-known and better-financed incumbent Senator Joni Ernst.

Discuss :: (18 Comments)

2014 election results discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 04, 2014 at 20:52:38 PM CST

Polls across Iowa close in just a few minutes, and I'll be updating this post with results throughout the evening. Any comments about any of today's races, in Iowa or elsewhere, are welcome in this thread.

Many races on the east coast and in the Midwest have already been called. As expected, Republicans picked up the U.S. Senate seats in West Virginia, Arkansas, and South Dakota. Louisiana will go to a runoff in December. Jeanne Shaheen held the New Hampshire Senate seat for Democrats, but Kay Hagan may be in trouble in North Carolina, and in a potentially stunning upset, Mark Warner is behind in Virginia. He needs a strong turnout in the DC suburbs.

As state-level results come in, these are the key Iowa Senate races to watch, and these are the key Iowa House races to watch. For the last four years, Democrats have held a 26-24 Iowa Senate majority. For the last two years, Republicans have held a 53-47 Iowa House majority.

UPDATE: Polls are closed and further updates will be after the jump. News organizations called the governor's race for Terry Branstad immediately.  

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20 Iowa House races to watch tonight

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 04, 2014 at 19:12:11 PM CST

Thanks to Iowa's non-partisan redistricting process, we have an unusually large number of competitive state legislative districts. In any given general election, depending on candidate recruitment, between one dozen and two dozen of the 100 Iowa House districts could be up for grabs. Democrats and Republicans spend big money on a much smaller number of districts; this year, only seven Iowa House races involved a large amount of television advertising. But the parties and candidates invest in direct mail and/or radio commercials in many more places than that.

Republicans go into election day favored to hold their Iowa House majority, which now stands at 53 seats to 47. Carolyn Fiddler has pegged seven "districts to watch" at her Statehouse Action blog, and in September, the Des Moines Register's Jason Noble discussed five districts he viewed as "key to Iowa House chamber control." I see the playing field as much larger.

Follow me after the jump to review 20 Iowa House seats that will determine control of the chamber for the next two years.

Caveat: most years, there's at least one shocking result in an Iowa House district neither party had their eye on. I'm thinking about Tami Weincek defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent in Waterloo in 2006, Kent Sorenson defeating a Democratic incumbent in Warren County in 2008, three Democratic state representatives who had run unopposed in 2008 losing in 2010, and Democrat Daniel Lundby taking out the seemingly safe Republican Nick Wagner in the Linn County suburbs in 2012. Wagner had run unopposed in the previous election.

So, while I don't expect any of the "favored" seats discussed below to change hands, I would not rule out a surprise or two. That would be excellent news for the stealth challenger's party.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of November 3)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 04, 2014 at 09:40:00 AM CST

We won't know the final early voting numbers until the Iowa elections are certified a few weeks from now, but after the jump I've posted absentee ballot figures based on the final daily update from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

As of yesterday, more than 455,000 Iowans had already returned early ballots to county auditors, a huge increase on total early voting in the 2010 midterm election. Registered Democrats have returned about 8,000 more ballots statewide than Republicans have. If Democrats identified and mobilized more independents to vote early (as happened in 2012), Bruce Braley could go into election day tens of thousands of votes ahead of Joni Ernst. Iowa Republicans typically perform better on election day than Democrats; how much better is open for debate, since the GOP encouraged many more people to vote early this year who previously voted on election day.

Statewide, about 33,000 Democrats, 19,000 Republicans, and 23,000 no-party voters had requested absentee ballots that county auditors had not received as of yesterday. Not every unreturned ballot represents an Iowan who will not vote. Some people mailed ballots that hadn't reached county auditors by yesterday, but those will still count if they either arrive today or arrive before next Monday with a postmark on or before November 3. Other people will hand-deliver ballots to the county auditors today; those will be counted as long as they arrive by 9 pm.

While canvassing the last few days, I've met a bunch of people who plan to "surrender" their absentee ballots at the regular polling place today, then vote with a regular ballot.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of November 2)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 03, 2014 at 09:43:16 AM CST

More than 430,000 Iowans have already returned absentee ballots to county auditors, but nearly 90,000 absentee ballots requested statewide are still outstanding. If you have not yet returned your absentee ballot, either "surrender" it tomorrow at the polling place (and receive a new ballot to vote like everyone else on election day), or hand-deliver a completed ballot to your county auditor's office today or tomorrow by 9 pm.

Today is the last day for in-person early voting: all 99 county auditors' offices are open until 5 pm.

I've enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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Republicans warning Iowa Facebook users: We'll know who "voted GOP"

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Nov 01, 2014 at 09:09:59 AM CDT

Political parties and outside groups are increasingly using tactics known as "vote-shaming" as a way to get unreliable voters to participate in the midterm election. Evidence suggests that "voter report cards" and similar techniques based on peer pressure can increase turnout.

Judd Legum reported for Think Progress yesterday that the Republican National Committee is taking this approach to a new and deeply dishonest level.

Screenshots of Facebook ads, promoted by the official Facebook page of the Republican National Committee feature an ominous message: "NOTICE: All Voting Is Public." The ad tell voters that "In a few months, Iowa will release the list of individual who voted in this election." Most troublingly, the ad includes an [aerial] view of a neighborhood with checkmarks indicating that "These People Voted GOP."

Click through to view a screenshot of these Facebook ads. Five houses on the same street in what looks like a wealthy suburban area have check marks near a badge reading "THESE PEOPLE VOTED GOP." The one house marked with an "X" is labeled, "DIDN'T VOTE DON'T LET THIS BE YOU."

Anyone can purchase a voter file from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office that shows who has cast ballots in any recent election. But as Republicans know very well, that information does not reveal how any given individual voted. The Facebook ad is crafted carefully: text the RNC posted above its photo refers accurately to how "Iowa will release the list of individuals who voted in this election." But the misleading graphics in the photo ("THESE PEOPLE VOTED GOP") are more eye-catching.

It's not the biggest lie Iowa Republicans have been pushing this year for political gain, but how disgraceful to stoke fears that neighbors may know whether you voted for the "right" candidates. No wonder the Iowa GOP did not respond to Legum's request for comment.

I'm interested to know how many states the RNC is targeting with these Facebook ads.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 30)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 31, 2014 at 10:13:49 AM CDT

Early voting by Iowa Democrats, Republicans, and no-party voters already exceeds the number of absentee ballots cast by each of those groups in the 2010 general election. Depending on how many more ballots are returned in time to be counted, this year's early vote may exceed 40 percent of the electorate.

Democrats lead in absentee ballots returned by about 7,000 statewide but have many more ballots outstanding (about 47,000) than do Republicans (about 30,000). Each 11,000 to 12,000 ballots left on the table represents roughly 1 percent of the expected statewide vote.

Although Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley have asked the U.S. Postal Service to put legible postmarks on all absentee ballots, I would not risk dropping a ballot in the mail now. If it arrives after election day with no postmark, it will not be counted. Safer to either take your ballot to the post office and demand a postmark on the envelope, or hand-deliver the envelope to the county auditor's office.

I've enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

The big question remains: which party has mobilized more voters who otherwise would not have participated in the midterm election? A new Des Moines Register analysis suggests Democrats have only a "thin edge" in early voting. But Nate Cohn of the New York Times' "Upshot" blog has a different take:

In Iowa, the overall early vote is nearly tied in a state where Democrats usually fare well in the early vote.

But Democrats insist that the Republicans are merely banking voters who would have voted on Election Day anyway, and back it up with data showing a lead among people who didn't vote in 2010, 40 to 29 percent. If the G.O.P. is faring better in the early vote by attracting voters who would have turned out anyway, then they diminish their ability to fare as well on Election Day as they have in the past.

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Harkin, Grassley urge Postal Service to postmark all absentee ballots

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 30, 2014 at 21:30:00 PM CDT

U.S. Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley issued a joint letter today to U.S. Postal Service district managers in Iowa, "urging them to ensure that ballots receive legible postmarks between now and Election Day." I've posted the full statement after the jump.

Absentee ballots may be counted in Iowa if they are postmarked on or before the day before election day. However, many ballots do not receive a postmark, so there is no way to prove they were mailed in time. With more than 100,000 absentee ballots requested but not yet returned to Iowa county auditors, there's a real risk that over the next several days, thousands of Iowans will mail ballots that end up going uncounted.

I applaud Harkin and Grassley for speaking out on this important problem but wish they had sent their letter a few weeks earlier. I don't know whether there is time for the Postal Service district managers to enact this policy change and get the word out to all staff.

At this point, the safest ways to return an absentee ballot are 1) hand-deliver to the county auditor's office, or 2) take to the post office and insist that a postmark be put on the envelope.

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Enter Bleeding Heartland's 2014 general election prediction contest

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 30, 2014 at 14:32:51 PM CDT

Time for another Bleeding Heartland election prediction contest. To enter, post your guesses as comments in this thread before 7 am on Tuesday, November 4. Predictions submitted by e-mail or social media will not be considered. It's ok to change your mind, as long as you post your revised predictions as an additional comment in this thread before the deadline.

No money's at stake here, just bragging rights like those enjoyed by Bleeding Heartland users ModerateIADem (twice), American007, Johannes, and tietack. This isn't "The Price is Right"; the winning answers will be closest to the final results, whether they were a little high or low.

Even if you have no idea, please try to take a stab at answering every question. We had no clear winner in this year's primary election prediction contest; the best guessers on some races were way off on other races.

Minor-party or independent candidates are on the ballot for some races, so the percentages of the vote for Democratic and Republican nominees need not add up to 100. You can view the complete list of candidates for federal and state offices in Iowa here (pdf).

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 29)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 30, 2014 at 09:40:00 AM CDT

Roughly 50,000 registered Iowa Democrats, 35,000 Republicans, and 35,000 no-party voters have requested but not yet returned absentee ballots. The Iowa Secretary of State's Office sent out a press release yesterday on deadlines for returning those ballots. Excerpt:

Absentee ballots returned by mail and received in the county auditor's office by 9 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, November 4 are eligible for counting. Absentee ballots returned by mail and received by the auditors office after the polls close must be postmarked by November 3 or earlier and be received by the auditor before noon on Monday, November 10.  Mail is not always postmarked so it is important to return the ballot as soon as possible. Absentee ballots can also be returned to the county auditor's office in person no later than 9 p.m. on Tuesday, November 4.

I would not simply drop a ballot in the mail at this point. The risk of it arriving late without a postmark is too great. Either take it to the post office and demand a postmark on the envelope, or hand-deliver it to the county auditor's office.

If you make a mistake while filling out your absentee ballot, or your ballot gets lost or damaged, or you realize after mailing that you forgot the secrecy or affidavit envelopes, call your county auditor's office. In many cases you will be able to come in, sign a form to void your original absentee ballot, and fill out a new absentee ballot right there.

I've enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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Three things that are not plagiarism

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 29, 2014 at 15:35:00 PM CDT

2014 is shaping up to be the year of idiotic plagiarism accusations in political campaigns. Here's a good example of real plagiarism: "Senator John Walsh of Montana took most of a 2007 final paper required for his master's degree from the United States Army War College from other sources without proper attribution."

In contrast, these common political actions are not plagiarism:

1. Having boilerplate language on a campaign website.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has alleged in a television commercial that IA-03 candidate Staci Appel was "caught plagiarizing 20 times." No, an early version of her campaign website included political statements about the minimum wage and other issues that were similar to other Democratic campaign websites. That is no different from dozens of Republican candidates parroting the same talking points about how the tax code should be "flatter, fairer, and simpler," or responding to a question about climate change with identical "I'm not a scientist" rhetoric.

2. Introducing similar or companion legislation.

Today the Republican Party of Iowa is pushing a bogus story about Bruce Braley "plagiarizing" a bill by Senator Harry Reid. Members of Congress introduce companion legislation to bills from the other chamber all the time. Republicans in dozens of state legislatures introduce bills that are taken verbatim from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) drafts.

3. Sending out a newsletter composed largely by staff.

Today Andrew Kaczynski and Ilan Ben-Meir reported for Buzzfeed, "Passages of local paper pieces under [Joni] Ernst's name appear to have been copied word-for-word from templates sent as guidelines to Republican members of the Iowa Senate." What they describe is standard operating procedure for Iowa lawmakers in both parties. While some representatives and senators write their own weekly newsletters, many others rely on text prepared by legislative staff. Sometimes local newspapers will reproduce all or part of those newsletters. I don't consider that "plagiarism."

Some days it's hard to see how our political discourse could get any more stupid or dishonest.

P.S. Speaking of dishonest, look how Joni Ernst's hired gun Daid Kochel re-tweeted my comment about common practice in the Iowa legislature, just minutes after he pushed the Iowa GOP's bogus plagiarism claims about Braley's bill.

UPDATE: Political reporter Gavin Aronsen comments, "Not sure I agree on point 3, once it's printed in a newspaper. Editors should reject that if it's not words of stated author." Point taken. But I blame lazy editors desperate for copy for that mistake, not politicians. Newspapers should not run a bulletin under an elected official's byline if other lawmakers sent out virtually identical text.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Shorter Mary Mosiman: Not my job to look for fraud

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 29, 2014 at 12:05:00 PM CDT

State Auditor Mary Mosiman, who in her previous job stood by and watched other people collect salaries for doing no work, has doubled down on her defense of the status quo in state auditing procedures.

Highlights from Thomas Geyer's report for the Quad-City Times are after the jump, along with state auditor candidate Jon Neiderbach's reaction to the incumbent's "reckless comments."

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 28)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 29, 2014 at 09:35:00 AM CDT

As of yesterday, the number of registered Republicans who had returned absentee ballots to county auditors (138,362) exceeds the total early Republican vote in the 2010 Iowa general election (136,243). Ballots returned by registered Democrats and no-party voters are likely to exceed 2010 early voting levels today or tomorrow.

Statewide, Democrats have returned about 5,000 more absentee ballots to county auditors than Republicans have, but they also have a lower return rate. Roughly 56,000 Democrats have requested but not yet returned absentee ballots, compared to about 38,000 ballots outstanding for Republicans and 38,000 outstanding for no-party voters. Every 11,000 to 12,000 ballots left on the table represents roughly 1 percent of the expected total vote in the 2014 general election.

For Iowans who have not yet returned their absentee ballots, the safest options are to hand-deliver the completed ballot to the county auditor's office, or to take it to the post office and demand a postmark for the envelope. Late-arriving mailed ballots with no postmark will not be counted.

Iowans cannot turn in completed absentee ballots at their regular polling place on election day. However, they may go to their precinct polling place next Tuesday, surrender their unreturned absentee ballot to poll workers, and receive a new ballot to fill out like other election-day voters.

I've enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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