Iowa Democrats lead early absentee ballot requests

Three times as many Democrats as Republicans have submitted requests for an absentee ballot in Iowa, according to numbers released by the Secretary of State’s Office today. Early voting begins on September 23, and so far Iowa county auditors have received 33,017 absentee ballot requests from registered Democrats, 11,785 from Republicans and 8,811 from no-party voters. We can’t tell which direction those independents are leaning; both Democratic and Republican campaigns have been trying to identify supporters not registered with either party.

Democrats will be pleased by their early lead, but only a small percentage of Iowa voters (perhaps 5 percent of the electorate) have submitted absentee ballot requests already. About 1.05 million Iowans cast ballots in the 2006 general election.

Iowa Democrats had a successful early voting program in 2008, which saved several state legislative seats. How well they replicate that program could make the difference in some of the battleground state House and Senate districts. Banking votes early leaves fewer voters who need to be contacted by phone or at the door. It also reduces the number of people who could be swayed by last-minute attack ads and mailers against Democratic candidates. Since early summer, Democratic candidates and volunteers have brought absentee ballot request forms with them while canvassing. Some Democrats who have voted absentee in the past have received mailings that include the request form.

Iowa Republicans are doing more early GOTV this year than in the past. I’ve been told Terry Branstad and his running mate Kim Reynolds recorded robocalls urging Republicans to vote by absentee, and the Branstad campaign produced a glossy direct-mail piece including a request form. I don’t know whether that was mailed to a large voter population or only to people who responded to the robocall that they would like to vote by absentee.  

After the jump I’ve posted the full press release from the Secretary of State’s Office. The official website will update numbers for absentee ballots requested every weekday from now through the end of the campaign.

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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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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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Election day in House district 90

Today’s the big day in Iowa House district 90. Latest news from the race:

Beth Dalbey wrote a good feature on the campaign for Iowa Independent. I didn’t realize that Republican candidate Stephen Burgmeier ran for Jefferson County supervisor as a Democrat and later as an independent before switching to the Republican Party.

One Iowa and the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund filed a formal ethics complaint against the National Organization for Marriage with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

The NOM claims to be in compliance with Iowa law.

Post any thoughts or election predictions in this thread. I am having trouble making a prediction. This race “should” go to Burgmeier because low-turnout special elections favor the opposition party, and because conservative interest groups have advertised much more heavily in the district. On the other hand, I hear field organizers supporting Curt Hanson on the ground have been doing a tremendous job. I will update this post with my final prediction this afternoon.

I agree with Kathie Obradovich, who argued last week:

This is primarily a local race. So what will the outcome say about the larger political landscape? Republicans have the most to gain and the least to lose. If Burgmeier fails, they can point to the Democratic advantage in the district. If he wins, it will be another boost for GOP voters. It’ll look like a rejection of Culver and the Democrats’ policies.

Still, another State Fair will have come and gone before the general election. Both parties will have a chance to learn from any mistakes in this race, and voters will have long forgotten them. Victory will be as sweet as cotton candy and probably just as long-lasting.

The state of the economy next fall will be much more important for the 2010 Iowa legislative races than whatever happens in House district 90 today.

UPDATE: Trying to be optimistic, but unfortunately I think Burgmeier will win this narrowly (53-47).

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