Lessons of 2018: Ending straight-ticket voting didn't change much

Fifth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections.

Republicans ended straight-ticket voting in Iowa last year as part of a law imposing several new barriers for voters. For months, I’ve been trying to work out how eliminating that option would affect this year’s outcome.

More than 400,000 Iowans filled in the Democratic or Republican oval on their 2014 general election ballot, which worked out to roughly 37 percent of those who participated. I expected a much larger “undervote” for lower-profile statewide offices or legislative races this year, as many who would have voted straight ticket marked their ballots for governor and Congress alone.

That didn’t happen.

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Iowa and national 2018 election results thread

Polls just closed in Iowa, and I will update this thread frequently throughout the night as results come in. Separate posts on some of the statewide and Congressional races will be forthcoming once the outcome is clear. The Secretary of State’s website is compiling vote totals here. Anecdotal evidence suggests turnout far exceeded 2014 levels on election day.

Early voting already set a record for an Iowa midterm election. This post includes tables showing absentee ballots requested and returned in all four Congressional districts from October 9 through November 6. The numbers aren’t quite final; absentee ballots can be hand-delivered to county auditors today, and ballots arriving by mail later this week can be counted with a postmark dated November 5 or earlier.

What we know: at least 538,043 Iowans voted before election day this year. The total early vote in 2014 was 465,166. Iowa Democrats cast 186,269 early ballots in 2014. As of this morning, 230,294 Democrats had already voted. Republicans cast 178,653 early ballots in 2014 and were at 189,961 this morning. Turnout among no-party Iowa voters typically drops sharply in non-presidential years. Four years ago, 99,491 independents cast ballots; the comparable number today is 114,878.

Earlier today, I reviewed the nine Iowa Senate races most likely to be competitive and 20 Iowa House races that will likely decide control of the lower chamber.

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Third-party candidates on ballot for all Iowa federal, statewide races (updated)

For the first time, at least one third-party candidate has qualified for every Congressional or statewide office in Iowa. Although third parties haven’t traditionally fared well in Iowa, Libertarians had their best showing ever here in 2016 and have nominated a record number of candidates for this November. Since several U.S. House or statewide races could be very close, even a small percentage of the vote for candidates other than the Democratic or Republican contenders could become significant.

With the filing period for Iowa’s general election ballot closed as of 5:00 pm on August 25, it’s time for an overview of the landscape. The full candidate list is posted on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website. UPDATE: John Deeth notes that candidates may have filed on the last day, which wouldn’t be reflected on the version currently posted online. I will update as needed; the key point is that there will be no statewide or Congressional races in Iowa this year with only Republican and Democratic options on the ballot. SECOND UPDATE: The Secretary of State’s office uploaded an amended candidate list on August 27. No new candidates filed for statewide office, but one additional person qualified for the ballot in the fourth Congressional district. Scroll down for further details.

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Weekend thread: Statewide candidate edition

Iowa will soon have its first new secretary of agriculture since 2007. The U.S. Senate confirmed Bill Northey on February 27 as undersecretary for farm production and conservation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He should have been confirmed months ago; senators on the Agriculture Committee unanimously endorsed his nomination in October. But Senator Ted Cruz of Texas held the nomination over a Renewable Fuel Standard dispute that has nothing to do with Northey’s portfolio.

Once Northey resigns as Iowa secretary of agriculture, Governor Kim Reynolds will appoint his longtime deputy Mike Naig to fill that post for the rest of this year, the governor’s office announced on March 1. I enclose Naig’s official bio below. One of five Republicans who have said they will run for Northey’s job, Naig formally launched his campaign for that office on March 2. At this writing, only Craig Lang has qualified for the primary ballot. Other declared GOP candidates are Ray Gaesser, Chad Ingels, and Dan Zumbach. UPDATE: Northey posted on Twitter March 6, “I heartily endorse Mike Naig as our next Iowa Ag Secy. Mike has been a great partner as my Deputy Secy of ag for 4+ yrs. Mike is ready to lead. Let’s elect Mike in June & Nov!”

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Iowa AG has joined 36 legal actions challenging Trump policies

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller signed on to three dozen multi-state actions challenging Trump administration policies last year, covering a wide range of immigration, environmental, civil rights, consumer protection and labor issues. Miller also joined fellow attorneys general in nine amicus curiae briefs related to state-level or local policies on reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, gun control, voting rights, and gerrymandering.

Although federal lawsuits aren’t the main focus of Miller’s work, Iowans can be proud our attorney general repeatedly stood for fundamental rights and core progressive values.

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