Eight lessons of election week 2020 in Iowa

Bill Brauch is a former Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee member and Third District Central Committee chair. -promoted by Laura Belin

Election week 2020 felt like an anti-gravity bungee jump for Iowa Democrats. We went from the depths of despair on election night, suffering losses we never expected, to huge relief — euphoria even — on Saturday when it was clear Joe Biden had won the presidency. That our next vice president will be a woman of African and Indian descent added to the joy of knowing that Donald Trump’s occupation of the White House will soon come to an end.

But there is no question Iowa Democrats are hurting. We lost statehouse seats we should have won. We did poorly in the U.S. Senate and presidential races. We lost one — maybe two — U.S. House seats. (We were not alone in this. Democrats even lost seats in states Biden won!)

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First thoughts on another disastrous election for Iowa Democrats

Bleeding Heartland will analyze the Iowa election results from many perspectives in the coming weeks. For now, let’s review the big picture: just like in 2016, the outcome was more devastating than any Democrat’s worst nightmare.

Turnout set a new record: Iowans cast at least 1,697,102 ballots, roughly 107,000 more than the high water mark of 1,589,951 people voting in the 2012 presidential election.

But as we learned in November 2018, high turnout doesn’t only help Democrats.

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Who benefits from Iowa's new law on candidate ballot order?

If you’re among the hundreds of thousands of Iowans who received absentee ballots in the mail this week or voted early in person, you may have noticed that one party’s candidates were listed first on all of the races for federal and state offices. Perhaps the ballot order differed from your expectations; Republican candidates got top billing in several large, Democratic-leaning counties.

How did that happen?

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Top Iowa Republicans dare not distance themselves from Trump

President Donald Trump’s unhinged and at times frightening behavior during his first televised debate “worried” and “alarmed” some of his most influential allies. The next day, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Washington Republicans criticized the president’s failure to condemn white supremacists. Former Republican National Committee chair Marc Racicot even revealed that he had decided to vote for Democrat Joe Biden, after concluding Trump is “dangerous to the existence of the republic as we know it.”

True to form, Iowa Republicans offered no hint of dissent from the president this week. They either said nothing about Trump’s debate performance or put a positive spin on it.

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Iowa absentee ballot numbers in the 2020 general election

Early voting won’t begin in Iowa until October 5, but signs already point to a high-turnout election, with many more Iowans casting early ballots than in the past. By September 25, more than five weeks before this year’s election, 583,944 people–more a quarter of Iowa’s 2 million active registered voters–had requested an absentee ballot. That number doesn’t include anyone planning to vote early in person next month.

Just before the 2016 presidential election, 693,709 Iowans had requested absentee ballots, and county auditors had received 653,438 completed ballots. We should surpass that number well before November 3. About 41 percent of Iowans voted early in 2016, but the COVID-19 pandemic will surely push that percentage higher.

I will update this page every weekday with the latest absentee ballot numbers released by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, presented in two tables.

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