Iowa results certified: Clinton carried early vote, Trump crushed election day

The scale of Iowa’s unexpectedly large swing toward Donald Trump has been clear for nearly a month. But until today, we didn’t know how much early and election-day voters contributed to transforming Iowa from a bellwether state to one that voted much more Republican than the rest of the country, from a state the Democratic presidential nominee carried by nearly 6 points in 2012 to a state the Republican nominee won by more than 9 points four years later.

According to numbers released following the official state canvass, Hillary Clinton went into election day with a cushion less than half as large as Barack Obama’s early vote lead in 2012. Meanwhile, Trump’s advantage among election-day voters was more than four times as large as Mitt Romney’s.

Trump didn’t match Obama’s showing in raw numbers or share of the presidential vote. He received 800,983 (50.63 percent) of the 1,581,371 ballots cast this year. Obama received 822,544 votes (51.99 percent) of 1,589,899 ballots cast in 2012.

Clinton underperformed by quite a lot, winning just 653,669 votes (41.32 percent). Even in defeat, Romney managed 730,617 votes (46.18 percent).

At my request, the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office provided the breakdown of absentee and election-day votes for the major-party nominees. Clinton led Trump among early voters by 331,964 to 270,900. Going into November 8, registered Iowa Democrats had returned 41,991 more absentee ballots than had Republicans, so a total early vote lead of only 61,064 for Clinton likely means she had only a small advantage among no-party voters who cast early ballots. Obama beat Romney by more than 137,000 among early Iowa voters in 2012, indicating support from the preponderance of absentee voters affiliated with neither party.

This year’s coordinated Democratic GOTV campaign appears to have targeted a significant number of registered Democrats and no-party voters who did not end up marking their early ballots for Clinton.

Republicans traditionally outpoll Democrats on election day, but Trump annihilated Clinton by 530,083 to 321,705 among Iowans who voted on November 8. Romney only received 45,428 more votes than Obama on election day 2012.

Some 40.91 of Iowans who voted this year cast early ballots, down from 43.27 percent in 2012. About 50.8 percent of Clinton voters cast early ballots, compared to only 33.8 percent of Trump’s Iowa supporters.

Turnout was slightly down overall; a little more than 72 percent of the eligible Iowa voters participated this year. More than 73 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in 2012. UPDATE: I should have mentioned that 72 percent represents the turnout rate among registered Iowa voters. Most people who study turnout prefer to look at the number of ballots cast as a share of eligible voters (not all of whom are registered). Michael McDonald of the U.S. Elections Project has estimated that 68.8 percent of Iowans who are eligible to vote cast ballots in the 2016 general election.

The major-party share of the presidential vote was down considerably. Four years ago, more than 98 percent of Iowans who voted marked their ballot for either Obama or Romney. This year, less than 92 percent of Iowans who participated marked their ballot for either Trump or Clinton.

The main beneficiary was the Libertarian Party of Iowa, which attained full political party status after a record-setting performance for Gary Johnson. The other seven presidential candidates on the ballot received a combined 2 percent of the Iowa vote. A little more than 1 percent wrote in some name for president, and roughly 15,000 (just under 1 percent) of Iowans who voted for at least one other office appear to have left the presidential line blank.

I enclose below today’s press release from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office and tables showing absentee ballots requested by voters and received by county auditors as of November 8. The full archive of Iowa early vote tables from 2016 is available here.

I have more posts in progress on Iowa’s 2016 general election results, and I’d welcome guest commentaries by Bleeding Heartland readers who want to take a deeper dive into any aspect of this year’s voting, including down-ticket races, trends among certain demographic groups, or changes since 2012 in a county or region of the state.

After six straight presidential elections in which Iowa voted a lot like the rest of the country, our state took a sharp turn to the right this year. We still have a lot to learn about how and why that happened.

Final note: I think this press release reports inaccurate numbers for the Libertarian presidential ticket. The results page on the Secretary of State’s website shows 59,186 votes for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. The 41,132 shown below is probably the number of votes cast for Charles Aldrich, the Libertarian nominee for U.S. Senate.

Official canvass results for 2016 election

DES MOINES – Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and the other members of Iowa’s Executive Council conducted the official state canvass for the 2016 general election Monday. The canvass is the official tally of the votes. It is done to account for every ballot cast and ensure every valid vote is included in the election totals.

“This was a very successful election for the state of Iowa,” Secretary Pate said. “More than 72 percent of registered voters participated, which ranks us in the top five in the nation in voter turnout. I am very proud of Iowans for making their voices heard and I want to give a huge thanks to all 99 county auditors and the 10,000 poll workers across the state for their hard work in ensuring a fair, clean election process.”

Relevant statistics and notes

(R)Trump/Pence–800,983 (50.63%)
(D)Clinton/Kaine-653,669 (41.32%)
(L) Johnson/Weld-41,132 (2.6%)

Total ballots cast: 1,581,371

-The Libertarian Party of Iowa is now eligible for full political party status since the Johnson/Weld ticket surpassed the 2 percent threshold.

-72% turnout (5th highest in the U.S.)

– Turnout
Top 2016 Counties

1. Harrison 87.91%
2. Sioux 83.57%
3. Ringgold 82.99%
4. Fayette 80.81%
5. Delaware 78.86%
6. Audubon 78.28%

Absentee voting statistics:

Top counties for absentee/early voting in 2016:

1. Winneshiek 56.27%
2. Johnson 53.95
3. Jefferson 51.91
4. Dickinson 50.57%

Straight party voting: 33%

Under votes in judges’ races: about 500,000

The full canvass results will be posted on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website,, by Tuesday morning.

Absentee ballots requested by Iowa voters as of November 8, 2016
Congressional district Democrats Republicans no-party voters other total
IA-01 73,092 50,742 44,654 641 169,129
IA-02 85,023 56,792 48,146 776 190,737
IA-03 75,394 61,084 36,940 682 174,100
IA-04 52,759 67,650 38,771 563 159,743
statewide 286,268 236,268 168,511 2,662 693,709

Absentee ballots received by Iowa county auditors as of November 8, 2016
Congressional district Democrats Republicans no-party voters other total
IA-01 68,470 48,528 41,748 577 159,323
IA-02 80,100 54,444 45,087 716 180,347
IA-03 69,396 57,667 33,978 620 161,661
IA-04 49,825 65,161 36,606 515 152,107
statewide 267,791 225,800 157,419 2,428 653,438

Maintenance Notice - As of November 14, 2023 we are still seeing issues with replying to comments...Thanks for your patience, this will be restored.

  • Straight party voting

    I did not know the absentee votes were known. I thought we knew only the registration of the the absentee voters.

    I did not know the straight party ballots were known. Do we know which party got more straight ticket votes? If I fill in the straight party bubble but also override my decision by voting differently in one race down the ballot, does it still count as straight party?

    • good questions

      I will check with the Secretary of State’s office.

      I was told earlier this week that Paul Pate does not plan to ask the legislature to eliminate straight ticket voting. Republicans will probably do so anyway.