Absentee ballot request numbers in Iowa's Congressional districts (updated)

Early voting starts in Iowa on September 27, but candidates have been encouraging supporters to request early ballots for months. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office show that registered Democrats have submitted far more absentee ballot requests than have Republicans, statewide and in all four Congressional districts. Details are below.

UPDATE: Added a table with the latest numbers as of September 18. SECOND UPDATE: Will be updating the absentee ballot totals daily here.

The Secretary of State’s office posted absentee ballot request numbers here (pdf) and will be updating the figures on business days for the remainder of the general election campaign. After September 27, I assume the tables will include numbers for absentee ballots returned as well as for ballots requested. From the Secretary of State’s home page, click the elections tab, then voters, then 2012 general election.

Absentee ballots requested by Iowa voters as of September 17, 2012

Congressional district Democrats Republicans no-party voters
IA-01 28,294 3,238 9,627
IA-02 26,159 3,725 7,712
IA-03 23,729 3,965 6,386
IA-04 14,668 2,707 4,366
statewide 92,850 13,635 28,091

In the 2008 general election, about one-third of the 1,528,715 Iowans who cast ballots voted early. So, the 134,698 voters who had requested absentee ballots by September 17 represent fewer than 10 percent of the Iowans who are likely to vote in November, and perhaps only a quarter of the Iowans who will vote early by mail or in person (at a county auditor’s office or satellite polling location).

Still, Democrats will be encouraged to see such a large lead on absentee ballot requests with 50 days to go in the campaign. The Iowa Democratic Party sent out its first mass GOTV mailing nearly a month ago. The party has followed up with several robocalls encouraging voters in the targeted households to sign the absentee ballot request forms and drop them in the mail. President Barack Obama emphasized the importance of voting early during his last two campaign rallies in Iowa.

The lack of comparable effort by the Republican Party of Iowa shows in the statewide numbers. My hunch is that most of the no-party voters who have requested early ballots were identified as supporters of Democratic candidates for various offices.

The big mystery to me is why Republicans are so far behind in the third Congressional district. If I were Representative Tom Latham, sitting on more than $2.1 million cash on hand in July, I’d have mailed an absentee ballot request form to every registered Republican in the 16 counties. I’d have put phone bankers and canvassers to work getting those forms signed and sent to county auditors. Maybe Latham is confident that his ability to buy more paid media will win this election. Maybe his early GOTV will kick in next week. But if I were Representative Leonard Boswell, I’d feel pretty good about these numbers.

Note also that in the fourth district, Democrats have submitted five times as many absentee ballot request forms as Republicans, despite a large GOP voter registration advantage. I still consider this race an uphill battle for Christie Vilsack, but I don’t understand why the well-funded Representative Steve King hasn’t gotten more of his loyal supporters to request ballots.

Any comments about the Congressional races or early voting are welcome in this thread.

Final note: Secretary of State Matt Schultz will attend a Scott County Republicans early voting rally on September 20. Scott includes the Iowa side of the Quad Cities, the largest population center in the new IA-02. John Archer, the GOP challenger to three-term Representative Dave Loebsack, needs strong turnout in Scott County to win this lean-Democrat seat.

UPDATE: Absentee ballots requested by Iowa voters as of September 18, 2012

Congressional district Democrats Republicans no-party voters
IA-01 29,564 3,552 10,275
IA-02 27,024 4,104 8,214
IA-03 24,975 4,244 6,916
IA-04 15,438 3,009 4,678
statewide 97,001 14,909 30,083

SECOND UPDATE: Nearly 10 percent of all the absentee ballot requests statewide come from Linn County (containing the Cedar Rapids metro area). The Linn County auditor’s elections office reported on September 19 that it has received 14,040 absentee requests: 9,554 from registered Democrats, 1,068 from Republicans, 3,402 from no-party voters, and 16 from voters with some other party registration. Linn County was in the second Congressional district for the past decade but is now the largest county in the new IA-01.

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