The Secretary of State race is getting interesting

The Republican primary campaign for Iowa secretary of state has lacked the drama and publicity of the governor’s race, but it is turning into a test of strength between a “fresh face” and a veteran of Iowa Republican politics.

The nominee challenging our outstanding Secretary of State Michael Mauro will be either Council Bluffs City Council member Matt Schultz or former State Representative George Eichhorn (“say I-Corn”).

A third Republican qualified for the ballot in this race, but I’m focusing on Eichhorn and Schultz because Chris Sanger is not a serious contender. He has no campaign staff and has raised only about $400, all at bake sales in Stuart, where the candidate and his wife own a bakery. The only newsworthy moment in Sanger’s campaign was his involvement in a meet and greet organized by a guy who thinks killing abortion providers is justifiable homicide. In fairness to Sanger, though, he may have a place in the record books for choosing the longest campaign committee name in Iowa history: Elect Chris Sanger, He Will Vote The Way People Want. Someone should have told him the secretary of state isn’t a legislator who votes on policies.

But I digress. Links and commentary about Schultz and Eichhorn are after the jump.  

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New early voting numbers for the Iowa primary election

Secretary of State Michael Mauro’s office released new numbers today for Iowans voting early in the June 8 primary election.

As of today, 9,209 ballots have been received by county auditor offices across the state. The breakdown by political party is as follows:

Absentee Ballots Received: 9,209

Democrats – 2,140

Republicans – 7,069

Absentee Ballots Sent: 20,269

Democrats – 5,305

Republicans – 14,964

To view these numbers by Congressional district, visit www.iowavotes.gov.

The deadline to request a mailed absentee ballot is June 4 at 5:00 p.m. Absentee ballots returned by mail must be postmarked on or before June 7. Voters may still request absentee ballots in-person at their county auditor’s office until close of business on June 7, the day before Primary Day.

On Saturday, June 5, county auditors’ offices will be open for in-person absentee voting. Voters may check with their county auditor for business hours on this day. In addition, voted absentee ballots requested by mail may be hand-delivered to the county auditor’s office until the close of the polls at 9:00 p.m. on Primary Day.

Secretary Mauro encourages those voters who have received absentee ballots to be sure to return completed ballots to their county auditor’s office prior to the deadline.

In order to participate in Iowa’s Primary Election on June 8, eligible voters will need to register either as a Democrat or as a Republican.

For more information on the 2010 Primary Election, visit www.iowavotes.gov.

Note: the number of “absentee ballots received” includes people who have voted early in person, either at a satellite voting location or at their county auditor’s office.

The disparity between ballots requested by Republicans and Democrats is expected, since Democrats have relatively few contested primaries going on (the U.S. Senate race, the fifth Congressional district, a few Iowa House districts and Iowa Senate district 13). Republicans have a three-way primary for governor, two candidates for state treasurer, three candidates for secretary of state, crowded primaries in the first, second and third Congressional districts, and many competitive primaries in Iowa House and Senate districts.

I am surprised there aren’t even more Republican absentee ballots outstanding. From what I’ve heard and read, Terry Branstad’s campaign is making a major push on the absentee ballot front. Supposedly Brad Zaun has been working on turning out third district Republicans to the satellite voting location in Urbandale. I would have expected more than 22,000 Republicans across the state to have voted early or requested an absentee ballot by now. (Approximately 200,000 people voted in the 2002 Iowa Republican primary.) Maybe there will be a surge of voters in the last two weeks before election day, or maybe Republicans just reject early voting on principle.

If you are voting by mail, you can track your absentee ballot through a new feature on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website. I prefer to vote early in person; it only took me a few minutes at the Polk County Auditor’s Office.

UPDATE: Melissa Walker posted a good story on this at IowaPolitics.com. She has numbers and return rates for several large counties. According to Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, “many of the early ballots are from the Urbandale area,” which may favor Zaun in the third district primary.

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Iowans can track their absentee ballots as early voting begins

Today marks the beginning of early voting for Iowa’s June 8 primary election, which is exactly 40 days away. Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro announced a new way for voters to track their ballots at www.iowavotes.gov. From a statement issued by the Secretary of State’s Office:

“The new feature on our website is a terrific tool for Iowa voters and will bring additional transparency to Iowa’s early voting system,” said Secretary Mauro. “By using this feature, voters will know when to expect their ballot and when their completed ballot has safely reached their auditor’s office.”

Absentee voters will be able to view the following information about the status of their ballot:

·         Date the absentee ballot request was processed by the auditor

·         Date the auditor sent the absentee ballot

·         Date the voted absentee ballot was received by the auditor

Last fall, Congress passed, and President Obama signed, the Military and Overseas Voters Empowerment Act (MOVE Act). That legislation required states to develop an online absentee ballot tracking system for overseas military voters. Secretary Mauro decided to make this feature available to all of Iowa’s early voters – military and nonmilitary – regardless of location.  

In September 2009, Iowa was recognized in a national study as the top state in the nation in making voting accessible for military and overseas voters.

If you have a chance to see Mauro at one of his campaign kickoff events next Tuesday or Wednesday, please thank him for doing an outstanding job. Three Republicans are seeking the nomination for secretary of state: George Eichhorn, Chris Sanger and Matt Schultz. So far Schultz has the most Republican establishment support.  

Most of the competitive primaries in Iowa this year are on the Republican side, but three Democrats are seeking the nomination for U.S. Senate: Roxanne Conlin, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause. Two Democrats are running against Representative Steve King in Iowa’s fifth Congressional district: Matt Campbell and Mike Denklau. There’s also a two-way Democratic primary between Richard Clewell and Dave Thede in Iowa Senate district 41 (Scott County) and a four-way Democratic primary between Tod Bowman, Paul Feller, Brian Moore and Ed O’Neill in Iowa Senate district 13 (all of Jackson County and parts of Dubuque and Clinton counties). Five Iowa House Democrats are facing primary challengers: Dave Jacoby (district 30, Iowa City/Coralville), Geri Huser (district 42, east side of Des Moines), Ako Abdul-Samad (district 66, Des Moines), Chuck Isenhart (district 27, Dubuque), and Mary Gaskill (district 93, Ottumwa). Click here to download a pdf file containing the full list of Iowa candidates who qualified for the ballot this year.

Comments about early voting or any Iowa primary races are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Iowans can also vote early at all 99 county auditor offices.

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Fong announces ten campus coordinators

Republican gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong responded to a weekend of renewed speculation surrounding Terry Branstad by announcing that his campaign has recruited campus coordinators at all of Iowa’s leading universities and several colleges. Radio Iowa posted the Fong campaign’s press release, which listed the ten college coordinators and provided this none-too-subtle analysis:

Marlys Popma, Fong campaign manager, added, “Considering we are several weeks away from classes starting on campuses across Iowa to already have College Chairs in place is a testament to Christian.  His ability to inspire Iowa’s youth should not be lost on Iowa Republicans as we look to restore the Republican Party.  We’ll continue to work until we have a presence at every university, college and community college in Iowa.”  

The message to Republican bigwigs is clear. Fong is serious about this campaign and is building a strong organization in the GOP’s weakest area: the youth vote. Since colleges will be on summer break by the time next June’s primary rolls around, Fong’s campaign will have to implement an aggressive absentee ballot strategy. Early voting happens to be another area where Iowa Republicans have been getting mauled in recent years.

Perhaps some major donors will give Fong more consideration before leaping to the conclusion that Branstad is their only hope for keeping the nomination away from Bob Vander Plaats. If Branstad stays out, some of the people currently recruiting him might move toward Fong.

Alternatively, if Branstad jumps in, Fong is making himself attractive as a running mate.

When school is back in session, I would welcome diaries, comments or e-mails from Bleeding Heartland readers about how the Republican campaign looks on your campus. Will Vander Plaats have a strong presence at the regents universities and community colleges as well as at some small Christian institutions?

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Republican desperation in action

Republican operatives have no shame when it comes to voter suppression tactics.

Iowa Independent reported today that Republican attorneys challenged the validity of 50 absentee ballots filed by Grinnell College students.

Did they have reason to believe the voters in question were not really students enrolled at Grinnell? No.

Did they have reason to believe the voters in question were trying to cast ballots in more than one location? No.

Did they have reason to believe the voters in question were not entitled to vote for some other reason? No.

Poweshiek County Auditor Diana Dawley said the ballots were challenged on the grounds that the students do not reside at the address they listed when they registered to vote.

The students registered to vote at 1115 8th Ave., which is the address on campus where they receive mail. However, it is not the physical address of their dormitories, Dawley said, which brought on the challenges.

The Grinnell College Campus Democrats claimed in an online posting that students who voted early at satellite voting stations were told by Poweshiek County elections officials to register in that way because the inability of students to receive mail at their physical address made it difficult to produce proof of residency.

This challenge is pathetic. Of course these students will list the address where they receive mail, rather than an address the post office wouldn’t recognize.

Republicans should be ashamed of such a scheme to deprive citizens of their right to vote. What a great introduction to politics for college students who are voting in their first presidential election.

I remember how excited I was to fill out my absentee ballot in the 1988, the first year I was old enough to vote for president. It is despicable for Republican attorneys to challenge voters on such flimsy grounds.

I’ve got news for the Republicans: the House district 75 race between Democratic incumbent Eric Palmer and former state representative Danny Carroll isn’t going to be close enough for them to steal.

Make a statement against voter suppression by sending a few bucks to Eric Palmer’s campaign.

UPDATE: This Daily Kos diary has more details on the situation in Grinnell. Also, it mentions that apparently Republicans in Virginia have challenged ballots cast by college students who listed their dorm address rather than the address at which they receive mail on campus. It figures that they are just trying to find any excuse to throw out students’ votes.

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How to vote early in Iowa (updated)

2010 UPDATE: For early voting links and numbers related to this year’s election, click here.

I’ve been thinking that it’s time to update this piece from a few weeks ago.

Mr. desmoinesdem likes to vote on election day, but I usually vote several weeks before. That way I don’t have to worry if I’m sick, or my children are sick, on that Tuesday in November. Plus, if everyone in my family is well, voting early leaves my election day free for volunteering with the Iowa Democratic Party’s phone banks or canvassing teams.

Long lines aren’t typically a problem in my precinct, but early voting is also good for people who want to make sure they don’t have to wait long during the rush to vote before or after work on election day.

Voting early also enables the Obama campaign and Iowa Democratic Party to direct their GOTV efforts toward more unreliable voters than you. Once you have voted, you won’t receive any more phone calls reminding you to vote.

Click here to find your local field office, which you can contact to ask about how to vote before November 4 in your county.

The Obama campaign also has set up a voter information hotline, 877 – IA08VOTE, for Iowans to call for information on early voting.

Note: My understanding is that the absentee ballots and other early votes cast will be counted during the day on election day and will be the first returns released by the Secretary of State’s office after the polls close. So don’t worry about your vote not getting counted.

Who’s voting early, and who prefers the old ritual of voting on election day?

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