Four takeaways from Iowa's 2018 early voting numbers

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

The November election was the first since Republicans shortened our state’s early voting window. Proponents of the 2017 law, best known for requiring voter ID, never made a case for limiting early voting. Nor did they produce evidence of any problems caused by allowing Iowans to cast ballots 40 days before elections. (County auditors needed to have ballots ready anyway, since federal law requires them to send overseas military ballots 45 days in advance.)

The power play was inspired by a simple fact: Iowa Democrats rely more on early voting than do Republicans. Switching from 40 days to 29 gave Democratic volunteers two fewer weekends to “chase” absentee ballots.

Now that the statewide statistical report on the 2018 general election is available, we can see how early voting played out in a compressed time frame. Bleeding Heartland previously discussed notable findings on turnout rates for Iowans of different political affiliations, age groups, and gender.

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How Iowa's 2018 turnout increased by party, age, gender

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

Immediately after the November election, it was obvious turnout in Iowa was unusually high for a non-presidential year. Now that the Secretary of State’s office has published the statewide statistical report, we can get a closer look at which demographic groups were most engaged. Let’s dive in:

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Democratic declines in key counties: A turnout or persuasion problem?

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

One of the hottest debates in Democratic activist circles relates to strategy for winning statewide and national elections. Does the party need to fix a base turnout problem by nominating contenders who will inspire passionate support among progressives? Or is the more urgent task appealing to voters who used to back Democrats, but lately have favored Republican candidates?

This post doesn’t claim to settle that argument, but searches for clues in the results and turnout rates from key Iowa counties where Fred Hubbell underperformed in his bid to unseat Governor Kim Reynolds.

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How Iowa's 2018 Congressional hopefuls did compared to Clinton, Trump

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

David Wasserman, U.S. House editor for the Cook Political Report, planted the seed for this post when he observed last month,

Iowans Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) and Cindy Axne (IA-03) delivered two of those newly-Democratic House seats. I wondered: how did they and their opponents perform compared to their party’s last presidential nominee?

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Lessons of 2018: Three keys to Abby Finkenauer's win in IA-01

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

Abby Finkenauer’s triumph over two-term U.S. Representative Rod Blum in the first Congressional district was one of this year’s most satisfying wins for Iowa Democrats.

The outcome wasn’t unexpected; leading forecasters saw IA-01 as a “lean Democratic” district for two months. Even so, the pick-up was hardly a given. Iowans tend to re-elect incumbents. Some of the 20 counties in IA-01 experienced the state’s biggest swings toward Republicans in 2016, and Blum ran about 5 points better than Donald Trump did in his district. Last month, Blum and his allies had claimed the incumbent was gaining on Finkenauer in internal polling.

But Blum’s campaign strategy–an aggressive mix of race-baiting television commercials, taxpayer-funded mailings that resembled electioneering, and Trump-like petty shots at journalists–couldn’t deliver the goods. Finkenauer received 170,342 votes to 153,442 for the incumbent (51.0 percent to 45.9 percent), according to official results.

Let’s take a closer look at how the second-youngest woman ever elected to Congress (after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York) assembled that margin of victory.

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Even in defeat, Peter Cownie's better off than Iowans with bad shoulder injuries

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

Money couldn’t buy a sixth term for State Representative Peter Cownie. Republicans spent more trying to hold his district than on any other Iowa House race, by far. Nevertheless, Democratic challenger Kristin Sunde defeated Cownie by nearly 1,200 votes in House district 42.

The loss must sting. Cownie would have led the House Ways and Means Committee next year, a powerful position as Republicans in full control of state government plan more tax cuts skewed toward corporations and wealthy people.

But in this season of giving thanks, Cownie can be grateful he will continue to be well-compensated. In contrast, Iowans with career-altering shoulder injuries are experiencing tremendous hardship under a 2017 law Cownie introduced and fast-tracked.

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