Four thoughts about Iowa House district 37 early vote totals

Two weeks before voters will elect a new state legislator to represent parts of Ankeny and northern Polk County, Democrats living in Iowa House district 37 had requested more than five times as many absentee ballots as Republicans.

Polk County Elections Office staff told Bleeding Heartland that 2,818 residents of House district 37 had requested an early ballot by 4:00 pm on August 31. Of those, 2,261 were Democrats, 398 were Republicans, and 159 were affiliated with neither party.

The vast majority of absentee ballots sent to voters have not yet been returned. As of August 31, the Polk County auditor’s office had received 375 completed ballots from registered Democrats and 36 from Republicans.

Four caveats:

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First thoughts on the Iowa House district 37 special election

Voters in Ankeny will soon choose a successor to State Representative John Landon, who passed away last month. Governor Kim Reynolds scheduled the Iowa House district 37 special election for Tuesday, September 14.

I’ll have more to say about this race once the field is set. Democrats nominated Andrea Phillips at a special district convention on August 7; Republicans have not yet selected a candidate.

For now, I want to touch on the opportunities and challenges this short campaign presents.

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Combating voter suppression, "Iowa Nice" style

Bryce Smith chairs the Dallas County Democrats. promoted by Laura Belin

Iowa has a rich tradition of voting integrity, from the way we draw legislative districts, to our access to early voting, election day voting, and ways in which to register to vote. We might call the system the “Iowa Nice” part of the U.S. election system.

Sadly, Iowa’s GOP-led legislature recently approved and Governor Kim Reynolds signed yet another bill full of voting restrictions, labeled “voter suppression” by Democrats and hailed as “election integrity” by some Republicans. This comes just a few years after the GOP-led legislature in Iowa passed sweeping voting rights changes and restrictions in 2017.

Republicans across the country have no plan for how to become more competitive in the national popular vote, so they have focused on keeping power by making it harder for those who don’t support them to cast ballots.

With no clear path to enact a federal Voting Rights Act, given the Senate filibuster, how can Democrats defend democracy in GOP-controlled states?

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A path forward for Democrats

Rosanne Cook, Sarah Prineas, Emily Silliman, and Janice Weiner co-authored this post. -promoted by Laura Belin

November 3, 2020 was a kick in the teeth for Iowa Democrats. We lost in Iowa and we lost badly. What should we do about it, other than feel disheartened?

The Potluck Insurgency is a grassroots activist group based in Johnson County. After the 2020 election, four members of Potluck’s steering committee undertook a project to debrief candidates from urban, suburban and rural districts; former officials of the Iowa Democratic Party; and activists from other grassroots organizations.  Seeking to identify reasons for our losses in 2020 and to formulate recommendations for a path forward in Iowa, we interviewed 34 people over the course of three months, in hour-long interviews, working from questions prepared in advance.   

After these interviews, we drew some conclusions about next steps. The following advice is directed at everyone from Iowa Democratic Party leaders, to activist groups like ours, to candidates. These are concrete actions that all of these groups can take to improve our chances in 2022.

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Where Iowa Democrats go from here: Thoughts for the next party chair

J.D. Scholten was the Democratic nominee in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district in 2018 and 2020. -promoted by Laura Belin

We, Iowa Democrats, have a lot of work to do. The 2020 election was humbling and has been hard to swallow. In 2008, Barack Obama won Cerro Gordo County with 60 percent of the vote. Donald Trump carried it this year with 52 percent. Obama won Carroll County in 2008 with 51 percent, but Trump won overwhelmingly there this year, with 68 percent of the vote. Those are just a couple of examples of what happened across the state.

Is Iowa a red state? Yes, for now, but I am not sold that all is lost for the Democratic Party here. In order to improve our outcomes, we need some changes within the Iowa Democratic Party. It starts with whomever the new chairperson will be.

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