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Congress

House sues Obama administration over health care reform law

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 07:35:00 AM CST

On Friday the U.S. House of Representatives filed a federal lawsuit challenging several aspects of how the Obama administration has implemented the 2010 Affordable Care Act. You can read the plaintiffs' full case here (pdf) against two cabinet secretaries and the agencies they lead. The main arguments are that the Obama administration broke the law by delaying the employer mandate to provide health insurance, and also by providing certain payments to health insurance companies without having Congress appropriate those funds. The first point was expected, but the second argument surprised even those who have closely followed the political battle over Obamacare. Sarah Kliff explained the challenged payments and how they fit into the law. Ashley Parker reported for the New York Times, "If the lawsuit is successful, poor people would not lose their health care, because the insurance companies would still be required to provide coverage - but without the help of the government subsidy, the companies might be forced to raise costs elsewhere."

In contrast, the legal challenge to delaying the employer mandate is more "symbolic," as that provision of the Affordable Care Act will have gone into effect by the time this lawsuit works its way through federal courts.

House Republicans voted to authorize this lawsuit shortly before going on a long summer recess. Iowa's four representatives split on party lines, with Republicans Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) supporting the measure and Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) opposed, along with every other House Democrat present. At the time, the lawsuit was perceived as House Speaker John Boehner's way of deflecting conservative sentiment toward drafting articles of impeachment. At times this fall, Congress-watchers wondered whether the lawsuit would go forward, as two major law firms worked on the case for a while before declining to participate in litigation. A conservative legal scholar eventually took the case.

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Iowa reaction to Obama's executive action on immigration

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Nov 21, 2014 at 11:09:40 AM CST

President Barack Obama delivered a prime-time televised address last night to explain his new executive order on immigration. The order would remove the threat of deportation for an estimated 5 million of the 11 million immigrants who came to this country illegally. After the jump I've posted the full text of the president's speech, as well as reaction from some members of Iowa's Congressional delegation and several advocacy groups. I will update this post as needed.

Last year, Iowa's U.S. senators split when the Senate approved a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which has never come up for a vote in the U.S. House. Just before Congress adjourned for five weeks this summer, Iowa's representatives in the House split on party lines over a border security funding bill bill designed to speed up deportations of unaccompanied children entering this country. Likewise, Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) voted for and Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) against a separate bill that would have reversed the president's policy (announced two years ago) to suspend deportations of some undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. Click here for background on those bills.

Note: King has been all over the national media the last couple of weeks, as journalists and pundits have discussed the president's expected action on immigration. Over the summer, King raised the prospect that Obama could be impeached over unilateral action on immigration. But as you can see from statements posted below, more recently he has not advocated impeachment. Instead, King has called on Congress to defund the federal agencies that would carry out Obama's executive order. Unfortunately for him, that approach is "impossible."

Both Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton have expressed support for Obama's executive order in the absence of Congressional action on comprehensive immigration reform.

Several Republican governors who may run for president in 2016 are considering legal action aimed at blocking the president's executive order. Such a lawsuit could raise the standing of Texas Governor Rick Perry, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, or Indiana Governor Mike Pence with Iowa conservatives who are likely to participate in the next GOP caucuses. I am seeking comment on whether Iowa Governor Terry Branstad might join this legal action.

The Obama administration is already preparing a legal defense that would include precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 ruling on an Arizona law relating to illegal immigration. Federal officials "have always exercised discretion" in prioritizing cases for deportation.

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Senate roundup: Harkin, Grassley split on Keystone XL, limits on NSA spying, and judges

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 19, 2014 at 12:53:16 PM CST

Iowa's Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin rarely found themselves in agreement during a busy day on the Senate floor yesterday. A bill to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project fell one vote short of the 60-vote threshold to defeat a filibuster. The roll call shows that Grassley was among the 59 yes votes (all Republicans plus 14 Democrats), while Harkin was among the 41 Democrats who defeated the bill. Scroll to the end of this post to read Grassley's statement on the failure to pass this measure. He backs an "all-of-the-above approach to meet the country's energy needs and give consumers choice." He does not address the reality that oil transported via Keystone XL would likely be sold to foreign markets, having no effect on domestic gasoline prices.

Although several of the pro-Keystone Democrats just lost their seats in this year's elections, nine of them will continue to serve next year. That means future Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will have the votes to overcome a filibuster of future bills on the pipeline. He won't have the 67 votes needed to overcome a presidential veto, but Republicans have vowed to attach Keystone language to "must-pass" bills that President Barack Obama won't want to veto.

Senators also blocked a bill that would have attempted to rein in domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency. Timothy B. Lee wrote a good backgrounder on the USA Freedom Act. The cloture vote failed by 58 to 42. Like almost all the Senate Democrats, Harkin voted for proceeding to debate the bill. Like all but four Republicans, Grassley voted to block efforts to reduce NSA spying on Americans. Members of Congress will revisit this issue next year, but I'm not optimistic any reforms will pass.

Side note: among the senators who are possible Republican presidential candidates in 2016, Ted Cruz voted for the USA Freedom Act. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio voted no. Paul opposed the bill because it did not go far enough, in his view; Rubio voted no because he thought the bill would increase the risk of terrorist attacks in this country.

Last week and this week, the Senate has moved forward on several nominees for vacant judicial spots on U.S. district courts. Harkin supported confirming all of the president's nominees. Grassley voted against cloture on all of the nominations, but Republicans were not able to block any of them from a vote on the floor, because the 60-vote threshold no longer applies to most confirmations. (That could change when Republicans take control of the chamber in the new year.) On the confirmation votes themselves, Grassley opposed most of the judges nominated by the president, with one exception last week and another exception yesterday. Many expect judicial confirmations to stop happening when Grassley becomes chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but perhaps he will let a few non-controversial nominees through.

A bill reauthorizing the Child Care and Development Block Grant gained massive bipartisan support on Monday, passing by 88 votes to 1. Both Grassley and Harkin backed this bill. In a statement I've enclosed after the jump, Harkin explained how this bill "will expand access to and improve the quality of child care for the more than 1.5 million children and families that benefit from the federal child care subsidy program." President Obama signed this bill today, and Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02) attended the ceremony. He worked on the bill as ranking member of the House Education and Labor subcommittee that covers early childhood issues. I posted Loebsack's statement below Harkin's.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

Note: Over the years I've written dozens of posts about Grassley and Harkin splitting on Senate votes. I expect that to end for the most part in January. If Joni Ernst votes differently from Grassley even five times over the next two years, I'll be shocked.

UPDATE: Added after the jump some of Harkin's recent comments on the Keystone XL pipeline.

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House Democratic leaders blew it on proxy vote for Tammy Duckworth

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 19, 2014 at 09:45:00 AM CST

The Democratic Party has long championed issues of importance to working women, such as equal pay and ending discrimination in the workplace. Yet party leaders in the U.S. House just denied Representative Tammy Duckworth a proxy vote for this week's elections on committee members. The official story is that granting a proxy vote to Duckworth (who is eight months pregnant and has received medical advice against traveling) would "set a precedent." Another House Democrat had requested a proxy vote to allow her to attend a funeral.

What an absurd excuse. Going to a funeral instead of to your job is a personal choice unrelated to health or medical concerns.

Many people in the House Democratic caucus are unhappy about the decision and suspect the "slippery slope" argument was just a cover story.

Members and aides are privately seething over what they see as Pelosi's latest attempt to stack the deck against Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., who is running for ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee against Pelosi's closest friend and fellow Californian, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo.

And many members are concerned about the optics of not allowing Duckworth a proxy vote when Democrats are supposed to be the party that fights for women. Democrats have tried to make electoral gains by touting the "When Women Succeed, America Succeeds" economic agenda.

"Our party should be the party that stands up for women," Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida said in a caucus meeting Tuesday morning, according to a source in the room.

A source also said that civil-rights icon and longtime Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis was fighting Pelosi's refusal: "We will pay a price for not doing this," he reportedly said.

KJ Dell-Antonia pointed out at her New York Times blog, "Pregnant women are protected by the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, but protection against discrimination does not require accommodation." That's one reason why President Barack Obama "has repeatedly called on Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, (PWFA), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed federal lawsuits recently against companies" that allegedly fired pregnant workers.

If Nancy Pelosi can't see the simple logic here, House Democrats should elect a minority leader who does.

UPDATE: On Wednesday the House Democratic caucus chose Pallone as ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

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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.

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Loebsack joins House Republicans to back Keystone XL pipeline

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 12:26:11 PM CST

On Friday the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline by 252 votes to 161. The roll call shows that all 221 Republicans present supported the bill, including Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04). Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among 31 Democrats who joined them. Bruce Braley (IA-01) voted no, along with the majority of the Democratic caucus.

Ed Tibbetts reported for the Quad-City Times that Loebsack's support was "a change from his vote on a similar measure last year." But Loebsack has repeatedly voted for language backing construction of the Keystone pipeline, even if he has not backed every Republican bill on that subject.

Braley also supported Keystone XL at one time, but changed his mind after realizing that the project was not going to live up to promises made about jobs or the ultimate destination of the oil. Loebsack must know those facts too, but he chooses to hide behind talking points: "I was skeptical of side stepping the normal processes, but the jobs attached to building the Keystone Pipeline are too important and can no longer be tied to DC gridlock." No doubt organized labor's support for the pipeline influenced Loebsack's vote.

The U.S. Senate will take up a similar bill on Keystone this week.  Democrat Mary Landrieu is pushing the legislation in a desperate attempt to save her Senate seat. Reality: she is going to lose next month's Louisiana runoff election regardless of what happens with the pipeline.

The White House has "hinted" but not explicitly stated that President Barack Obama would veto legislation designed to force approval of Keystone XL. Obama commented last week,

"Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn't have an impact on U.S. gas prices. If my Republican friends really want to focus on what's good for the American people in terms of job creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a conversation about what we are doing to produce more homegrown energy."

Even if the president blocks this attempt, Congressional Republicans will likely include Keystone language in various must-pass bills until Obama goes along sometime next year.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Blad Plumer's backgrounder on the key arguments for and against the pipeline is a good read.

P.S. I disagree with Paul Deaton's claim that Keystone XL is merely a distraction ("bright shiny object"). He argues that the environmental movement failed by targeting this pipeline instead of making a broader case against tar sands oil. Blocking this pipeline may not be sufficient to keep the tar sands oil in the ground, but it is certainly a necessary condition.

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Bob Krause exploring U.S. Senate bid against Chuck Grassley

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 12, 2014 at 09:25:00 AM CST

Bob Krause a former state representative and longtime activist for Iowa veterans, announced yesterday that he is exploring a challenge to U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley in 2016. I've posted his statement after the jump.

Krause sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010 and finished second with just under 13 percent of the vote. Last year he considered running for governor in 2014 but declined to move forward, saying he had decided to run against Grassley instead.

Grassley announced last year that he plans to seek a seventh term in the U.S. Senate. He would be 83 years old in November 2016 election and 89 years old if he served out a full term. Nevertheless, he will be the prohibitive favorite against any Democratic challenger. I believe Grassley plans to retire in 2022 and hopes his grandson, State Representative Pat Grassley, will be well-positioned to succeed him by then. If Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey runs for governor in 2018, as many Iowa politics-watchers expect, Pat Grassley will likely leave the Iowa House to run for secretary of agriculture that year.

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IA-03: Who should run against David Young?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 10, 2014 at 11:17:21 AM CST

The Bleeding Heartland community has been discussing potential Democratic challengers in Iowa's first Congressional district here, and I expect people will have equally strong views about who should run in IA-03. David Young will be a much tougher opponent in 2016 than Rod Blum, the surprise winner in IA-01. Democrats don't have a voter registration advantage in the third district like they do in northeast Iowa. Young's many contacts in Washington will help him raise a ton of money. Furthermore, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley plans to run for re-election in 2016 and will pull out all the stops to help his former chief of staff Young.

Among the 16 counties in IA-03, Polk County is the only place Democrats have any bench to speak of. Since more than half the registered voters in the Congressional district live in Polk County, it will be critically important for any Democratic challenger to run up the score there. President Barack Obama carried Polk by about 32,000 votes in 2012 but only gained about 51.4 percent of the vote throughout the Congressional district. So, I would guess that any Democratic candidate would need to win Polk County by between 25,000 and 30,000 votes to have a shot against Young.

No doubt many Democrats will be thinking about this race. State Senator Matt McCoy is almost a sure bet, since he was ready to run for Congress way back in 2002 and has said many times he would consider running after outgoing Representative Tom Latham retired. Having just been re-elected to a four-year term, McCoy would not have to give up his Iowa Senate seat to seek higher office in 2016.

State Senator Janet Petersen would be an excellent candidate, but she is up for re-election in 2016, so would have to choose between running against Young and seeking another term in Iowa Senate district 18.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

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Will judicial confirmations grind to a halt under Chairman Grassley?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 10, 2014 at 09:05:00 AM CST

As a 34-year incumbent, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley will have a choice among leading the Senate's Finance, Judiciary or Budget committees when the new Congress convenes in January. In a statement to the Des Moines Register yesterday, he said he will pick the Judiciary Committee.

"Oversight is too often overlooked as Congress focuses on new legislation [...] So, anybody who knows my efforts in this area will understand that the Judiciary Committee's work will reflect that sentiment. My goal is to promote transparency and accountability and restore the committee's role as a true check on the massive and powerful federal bureaucracy." [...]

"The Judiciary Committee should not be a rubber stamp for the president," he said. "However, as I have as ranking member, I will work to confirm consensus nominees. Factors I consider important include intellectual ability, respect for the Constitution, fidelity to the law, personal integrity, appropriate judicial temperament, and professional competence.

"Judges are to decide cases and controversies - not establish public policy or make law," he said.

Sounds like under Grassley's leadership, the Judiciary Committee will approve few, if any, of President Barack Obama's judicial nominees for a vote on the Senate floor. I would guess that only conservative-leaning judges will meet the new chairman's standard for "consensus." Other political observers have reached the same conclusion (see also here). In recent years, Grassley and his fellow Republicans blocked confirmation votes on numerous judicial nominees, including everyone the president picked for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals regardless of qualifications. The standoff prompted Senate Democrats to sharply curtail the use of the filibuster on presidential nominations. Grassley and other Republicans warned at that time that someday they tables would be turned.

Taking a contrarian view, the non-profit Alliance for Justice argues here that "no one should give up on judicial confirmations in a Republican-controlled Senate." I've posted excerpts from that piece after the jump, but it's worth clicking through to read in full.

I also enclose below Grassley's official comment on U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, whom the president has tapped to be the next attorney general. Grassley has been a vocal critic of outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder. The Judiciary Committee holds confirmation hearings on attorney general nominees.

UPDATE: Added more comments from Grassley on his role and the role of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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IA-01: Who should run against Rod Blum?

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 06, 2014 at 11:56:27 AM CST

Judging by the comments in this thread, Bleeding Heartland readers are eager to discuss who should take on Republican Rod Blum in the next election to represent Iowa's first Congressional district.

Blum should be a one-termer. Unofficial results show he beat Pat Murphy by about 7,000 votes (51.2 percent to 48.7 percent) in a banner year for Iowa Republicans. Democratic turnout should be much higher for a presidential election than it was this year. Blum's record in Congress will also make him an easier target for the next Democratic opponent. He didn't campaign like an extreme right-winger, but he's about to start voting like one, which will hurt him with independents. The next Paul Ryan budget (which Blum will support) will include big cuts to entitlement programs. I wouldn't be shocked to see Blum help House Republicans shut down the federal government again.

Who should be the next Democratic nominee in IA-01? My first thoughts are after the jump.

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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.

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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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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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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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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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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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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 27)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 28, 2014 at 08:55:00 AM CDT

A week before election day, early voting is on track to well exceed the total number of absentee ballots cast in the 2010 Iowa general election. 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.

Republicans lead in ballots requested and returned in the fourth Congressional district. Democrats lead in the other three districts, by the largest margin in IA-02 (where Representative Dave Loebsack is facing Mariannette Miller-Meeks) and by the smallest margin in IA-03 (the open-seat race between Staci Appel and David Young).

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 26)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 27, 2014 at 08:47:57 AM CDT

In all likelihood, at least a quarter of the Iowans who will participate in this year's midterm election have already returned completed ballots to county auditors. Another 150,000 voters have requested ballots but not yet returned them. To anyone planning to vote by mail: send your ballot back as soon as possible. Iowa law says any ballot mailed by the day before the election (in this case November 3) is valid, but county auditors will not count late-arriving ballots without postmarks. Unfortunately, post offices no longer routinely put postmarks on all mail that passes through. Iowans who are worried about their ballots arriving on time should either take them to a post office this week and ask for a postmark, or hand-deliver completed ballots to the county auditor's office.

Don't forget to seal the ballot in the secrecy envelope, seal the secrecy envelope in the affidavit envelope, and sign the affidavit envelope before mailing. If you make a mistake on your absentee ballot, don't erase or cross anything out. Contact your county auditor about the procedure for getting a replacement ballot.

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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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 23)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 24, 2014 at 16:55:00 PM CDT

Another commitment kept me away from my computer for most of the day, but after the jump I've enclosed 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.

Democrats slightly extended their statewide lead in absentee ballot requests and regained a small lead in absentee ballots returned to county auditors, after Republicans had held an edge of a few hundreds ballots the previous day. However, Republicans now lead in absentee ballots returned in Iowa's third Congressional district as well as in the fourth. Here's hoping some of the Republicans who have already voted in IA-03 followed the lead of conservatives who oppose David Young.

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