Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of September 29)

Every weekday through November 4, Bleeding Heartland will post updated totals absentee ballots requested and returned, statewide and in Iowa’s four Congressional districts, based on data from the Iowa Secretary of State’s website. The latest tables are after the jump. Previous tables are here. If turnout in this year’s election is roughly on the level of 2010, with about 1.1 million Iowans participating, than approximately 15 percent of those who will vote have already requested early ballots.

Today Nate Cohn posted his analysis of the Iowa early voting numbers at the New York Times’ Upshot blog. His main takeaways:

Over all, the early voting tallies in Iowa tell us that both Democrats and Republicans are better mobilized than in 2010 – which is no surprise in a state where there was no competitive contest that year – but not as well mobilized as in 2012. The Republicans are more obviously outperforming their past figures, but Democrats may be doing a better job of turning out marginal voters. The early vote tallies seem consistent with the polls: a close contest in which either side could prevail.

I agree with the broad conclusions but think Cohn is missing a few important factors.

First, every day since the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office started updating the absentee ballot figures, Democrats have added more ballot requests than Republicans. We don’t know whether that trend will continue for the next five weeks, but it’s encouraging for Democrats.

Second, Cohn ignores the no-party voters who have requested early ballots (about 35,000 people as of yesterday). But independents added considerably to President Barack Obama’s advantage in the early vote in 2012. On the eve of that general election, registered Iowa Democrats who had returned early ballots outnumbered registered Republicans who had done so by about 65,000. But Obama received 137,355 more early votes in Iowa than Romney, meaning he must have been supported by about two-thirds of the roughly 200,000 no-party voters who cast early ballots. Democratic canvassers have done more this year than Republicans to target independent voters, which could add to the party’s early voting advantage.

Third, Cohn repeatedly characterizes the 2010 midterm election in Iowa as uncompetitive, presumably because Terry Branstad and Chuck Grassley were heavily favored in the races for governor and U.S. senator. But aside from the national mood that favored Republicans in 2010, one huge factor driving turnout in Iowa was the first judicial retention elections following the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2009 decision allowing same-sex marriage. That motivation for social conservatives is absent this year because no one on the Supreme Court is up for retention. Branstad recruited unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Sam Clovis to run for state treasurer right after this year’s Republican primary in an obvious attempt to give that part of the GOP base more reason to turn out. I’m skeptical that social conservatives will be as energized to vote for the Republican ticket as they were in 2010.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.  

Absentee ballots requested by Iowa voters as of September 29, 2014

Congressional district Democrats Republicans no-party voters Libertarian Iowa Green total
IA-01 23,459 10,894 10,181 42 33 44,609
IA-02 26,671 11,009 10,774 34 41 48,529
IA-03 23,163 11,952 7,713 41 27 42,896
IA-04 15,750 12,256 6,530 23 13 34,572
statewide 89,043 46,111 35,198 140 114 170,606

Absentee ballots received by Iowa county auditors as of September 29, 2014

Congressional district Democrats Republicans no-party voters Libertarian Iowa Green total
IA-01 4,624 2,631 1,402 9 4 8,670
IA-02 4,028 2,054 983 7 4 7,076
IA-03 2,794 2,010 694 4 2 5,504
IA-04 2,474 2,179 794 3 2 5,452
statewide 13,920 8,874 3,873 23 12 26,702

About the Author(s)


  • Shoe leather

    I think the continuing absentee request push on the Democratic side is a sign of the approach Dems take to voting (early voting, in particular).  Democrats see early voting as a way to take 40 bites at the apple when trying to reach GOTV targets.

    The Iowa GOP sends a few mailers, maybe makes some calls and runs a few digital ads … but it’s all token, and not based on real organization in my experience.  It’s particularly weak in non-presidential years.  They seem to be doing more this cycle than in the past, but unsure if it will really blunt the margins.

    I also think the upside down early vote request numbers from IA-04 are interesting.  How do IA-04 margins (Dem:GOP:NP) look in comparison to 2010?  Relative margins being the key – not absolute numbers.

    • this morning

      I was surprised that our household received a robocall paid for by the Republican Party of Iowa, urging early voting and informing us that an absentee ballot request form is on its way in the mail. Since I already have received my ballot, I assume the form will come for Mr. desmoinesdem–but he has never been a registered Republican or even a no-party voter. Don’t know what kind of list they are using.

  • Long game elections.

        The election has already begun and will be over on Nov. 5 and using the ground game to get the vote out is crucial. The Selzer poll was a wake-up call is all , we are working up here and also opening an office for Mowrer tomorrow in Spencer on Grand so people can see the Democrats working hard for our people. Take the game right to stevieKing (bigot) as I see many voters are tired of his embarrassing comments. So Iowa 4 has a lead now and smaller turnout than expected all good signs.

        Mrs. Ernst is well coached and hits her cues, what Mr. Braley needs to do is take her off guard so the crazy can shine. Minimum wage is a winner and so is closing the Dept. of EDU which Braley is exploiting by using ground troops at colleges. Although the GOP has a lead according to the Selzer poll these early voting numbers must be keeping them awake at night.  

  • PPP poll

    out this morning shows Ernst w a lead and from what I see on twitter Jack may be dropping off TV. I just don’t see Bruce pulling it out at this point.  And if that happens, I wonder what this means for the future of Dems GOTV, especially now that the GOP its big money have discovered it.

     From the trenches and without any particular insight into whatever computer models are being used, my thought is a ground game might make the difference in a close election, but it can’t make up for a seriously bad campaign (BB) or a candidate who can’t raise the money he needs to compete (Jack), even tho I have no doubt he would be a good Governor.

    • PPP shows Ernst ahead by 2 percent

      which is within the margin of error, but let’s assume for the moment she is ahead by 2 percent.

      About 1.1 million Iowans cast ballots in the 2010 general election. If turnout is roughly at that level this year, every 11,000 marginal voters who cast a ballot will make up approximately 1 percent of the electorate.

      Can the Iowa Democratic Party’s GOTV strategy turn out, say, 50,000 people who otherwise would not have voted? I have no idea, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Canvassers aren’t just collecting absentee ballot requests, they are also identifying supporters who claim they plan to vote on election day. So on November 4, GOTV can be targeted to that list of people.

      Clearly, that won’t help if they’ve changed their minds by that point and no longer support Braley. But many people have strongly negative feelings about Ernst. Even if the Des Moines Register poll which was so awful for Braley, Ernst had higher “strongly unfavorable” numbers than Braley.

  • Nate's analysis is tarnished

    You are correct to question Nate’s analysis…he completely dismissed the impact of the judicial ballot race in Iowa in 2010 and it was significant.

    What we can’t tell from these numbers for any of the three parties is what type of voter is casting these early ballots. Yes, I know I’m a broken record on this, but if the Dem ballots and the NP ballots are marginal voters then it is very good news. If it’s more reliable voters voting early, then it may be deceiving. The campaigns or the Democratic party would know. However, I don’t want them to discuss that publicly. Strategy and tactics should remain a secret until the election voting period is done. No sense helping opponents!

  • Add two more

    Add three more to the totals of the 2nd district. I took my mother yesterday, and I am taking two cousins tomorrow. All three have never voted in a midterm before. I hope more people are doing this. We have to do whatever it takes to stop Joni Erst from winning. Please offer to drive people if need be. It isn’t looking good out there on the ground from my perspective, so we have to pull out all the stops.