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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Part 4: How to corrupt Iowa agriculture

Latest deep dive by Tyler Higgs on money in Iowa politics. -promoted by desmoinesdem

There’s nothing more Iowan than farming, and there’s nothing more dangerous than a corrupt politician. Those idyllic Grant Wood images of Iowa farms and hard-working Iowa farmers are being replaced by logos of the Big Ag monopolies that exploit the Iowa family farmer for financial gain. That is how you corrupt Iowa agriculture.

In this article, I will show the finances of both candidates for Iowa secretary of agriculture, Republican Mike Naig and Democrat Tim Gannon. You can decide who is fighting for the family farmer and who is in the pocket of big agribusiness companies.

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Iowa media shrug as Farm Bureau deploys corporate cash for Mike Naig

Iowa law prohibits corporate campaign contributions, so it seems like big news for a business lobby group to seek a “one-time investment of corporate funds” on behalf of a statewide candidate whose election “could return dividends for a decade or more to come.”

Yet media gatekeepers have mostly decided the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s plan to elect Republican Mike Naig as secretary of agriculture isn’t newsworthy.

While most print and broadcast outlets ignore the story, pro-Naig advertising that strongly resembles the Republican’s campaign messaging has reached hundreds of thousands of voters.

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Weak laws allow Iowa Farm Bureau to boost Mike Naig with corporate cash

“This is illegal right?” a contact asked this morning after reading Pat Rynard’s scoop about the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation soliciting agribusiness dollars to help Republican Mike Naig win the secretary of agriculture election.

You’d think so, since Iowa law prohibits corporations from donating to candidate committees or state PACs.

However, the Farm Bureau appears to have found a legal way to boost Naig with Big Ag cash while concealing the sources of those funds until after November 6.

The scheme is a case study of how Iowa’s campaign finance laws fail to limit corporate influence effectively or even provide transparency when companies try to buy elections.

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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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