# GOTV



Vote early in Iowa—but not by mail, if possible

Early voting for Iowa’s June 7 primary began on May 18. Voting before election day has many advantages. You don’t have to worry about illness, work obligations, or a family emergency keeping you from casting a ballot. Once officials have recorded that you voted, you should stop receiving unsolicited phone calls and knocks at the door.

However, I now discourage Iowans from voting by mail unless there is no alternative. Recent changes to state law have greatly increased the risk of a mailed ballot never being counted.

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Thoughts on the French presidential election and voter turnout

Matt Hardin suggests five reforms to make voting easier in the U.S., modeled on how presidential elections are conducted in France.

I recently took a vacation to Paris and got to see French democracy up close.

While my wife and I were there, France held the second and final round of its presidential election, which is a simple runoff between the top two candidates from the first round.

On April 24 the incumbent president, Emmanuel Macron, soundly defeated the far right candidate, Marine Le Pen, 59 percent to 41 percent. One of the most reported-on figures in the French media was the abstention rate—the percent of registered voters who didn’t vote.

According to the French, the 28 percent abstention rate (so, 72 percent turnout) is an alarming sign for their democracy. Usually, only about 15 to 20 percent of French voters stay home.

Despite the hand wringing in France, the comparatively low abstention and high turnout stunned me. I wanted to understand how they do it.

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How a strong ground game helped turn Urbandale blue

Going into the 2019 elections, Urbandale’s city council consisted of five Republican men with backgrounds in legal or real estate work. This suburb to the west of Des Moines was a GOP stronghold for decades. But Matt Blake and Bridget Carberry Montgomery won two of the three council seats on the ballot two years ago. On November 2, Amy Croll and Larry McBurney won the Urbandale city council races with 5,044 votes and 4,207 votes, respectively. Once they are sworn in, four Democrats and one Republican will serve on the council of Iowa’s twelfth-largest city (around 45,000 residents). Democrats Jason Menke and Rachel Kent won two of the three Urbandale school board seats on this year’s ballot.

Urbandale’s longtime Mayor Bob Andeweg (who was unchallenged for re-election this year) is a Democrat these days, having changed his registration in 2019.

Many suburbs around the country have undergone political transformations as their populations diversify, and college graduates increasingly favor Democrats. But winning a local election in a purple area still requires hard work. McBurney finished just 27 votes ahead of the third-place candidate, Republican John Bouslog.

Each of the winning city council candidates knocked thousands of doors. In addition, Urbandale area Democrats have built a phenomenal volunteer organization to support local candidates by knocking doors, making phone calls, and sending postcards or text messages.

When I reached out to Croll and McBurney this week, both credited the grassroots effort for their wins. McBurney noted, “27 votes means that every door mattered.” Carberry Montgomery agreed, “the bottom line was organization” in each of the last two cycles. Blake estimated that volunteers helped his campaign knock nearly three times as many doors in 2019 as he could have managed on his own.

The late Jerry Tormey was among the most influential activists who helped change Urbandale. Two other superstar volunteers, Donna Richard-Langer and Dave Langer, agreed to a telephone interview on November 4 to discuss their methods.

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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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