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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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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GOP nominates Mike Naig for ag secretary, Jeremy Davis for treasurer

Despite support from his predecessor Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig needed four ballots to secure his party’s nomination at the June 16 Republican Party of Iowa state convention. Governor Kim Reynolds appointed Northey’s longtime deputy to serve out his term in March. Naig finished far ahead of the other four Republicans running for secretary of agriculture on June 5 but fell 0.3 percent short of the 35 percent threshold needed to win the primary outright.

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2014 election results discussion thread

Polls across Iowa close in just a few minutes, and I’ll be updating this post with results throughout the evening. Any comments about any of today’s races, in Iowa or elsewhere, are welcome in this thread.

Many races on the east coast and in the Midwest have already been called. As expected, Republicans picked up the U.S. Senate seats in West Virginia, Arkansas, and South Dakota. Louisiana will go to a runoff in December. Jeanne Shaheen held the New Hampshire Senate seat for Democrats, but Kay Hagan may be in trouble in North Carolina, and in a potentially stunning upset, Mark Warner is behind in Virginia. He needs a strong turnout in the DC suburbs.

As state-level results come in, these are the key Iowa Senate races to watch, and these are the key Iowa House races to watch. For the last four years, Democrats have held a 26-24 Iowa Senate majority. For the last two years, Republicans have held a 53-47 Iowa House majority.

UPDATE: Polls are closed and further updates will be after the jump. News organizations called the governor’s race for Terry Branstad immediately.  

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Election day links and discussion thread

Happy election day to the Bleeding Heartland community. The weather forecast looks good for most parts of Iowa. Polls are open everywhere from 7 am to 9 pm. It’s too late to mail absentee ballots, but you can still hand-deliver completed absentee ballots to your county auditor’s office, or “surrender” you ballot at your regular polling place, then vote with an ordinary ballot.

Three new polls of the U.S. Senate race came out on Monday. Quinnipiac found Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst tied at 47 percent. (That pollster’s previous Iowa survey had Ernst leading by 49 percent to 45 percent.) Fox News found Ernst ahead by 45 percent to 44 percent. Public Policy Polling found Ernst ahead by 48 percent to 45 percent.

All three polls confirmed my belief that the Des Moines Register’s Iowa poll by Selzer & Co was an outlier. No other survey has found Ernst above 50 percent or ahead by such a large margin. If she does win the IA-Sen race by 7 points, I will declare Ann Selzer a polling genius.

Incidentally, the new polls also found Governor Terry Branstad ahead of Democratic challenger Jack Hatch by a smaller margin than in the Register’s final Iowa poll. Quinnipiac found Branstad ahead by 52 percent to 41 percent. That was similar to Public Policy Polling’s finding of Branstad at 54 percent and Hatch at 43 percent. Fox News found a bigger lead for the governor: 53 percent to 36 percent.

PPP has been the only firm to consistently poll down-ballot statewide races in Iowa this year. Its final poll found Democrat Brad Anderson ahead in the secretary of state race, with 44 percent support to 38 percent to Paul Pate and 3 percent each for Jake Porter and Spencer Highland. (Porter, a Libertarian, received about 3 percent of the statewide vote in the 2010 secretary of state race.)

PPP found State Auditor Mary Mosiman leading her Democratic challenger by 46 percent to 41 percent. State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald is ahead of his Republican challenger Sam Clovis by 48 percent to 38 percent, with Libertarian Keith Laube pulling 5 percent. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has a comfortable 51 percent to 33 percent lead over Democrat Sherrie Taha, with a minor-party candidate pulling 5 percent. Finally, Attorney General Tom Miller leads Republican Adam Gregg by 55 percent to 36 percent.

While canvassing in Windsor Heights and Clive on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, I didn’t see any Republicans knocking on doors, nor did I see Republican campaign literature on doorknobs or front porches. Another Democratic canvasser in a different part of the state had a similar experience. I would like to hear from Bleeding Heartland readers about what you’ve seen of the Republican “ground game” during the final days. As far as I can tell, the GOP has relied mainly on robocalls and perhaps live-caller phone-banking. Republicans paid for many robocalls in the final days.

Speaking of robocalls, many Democratic households in the third Congressional district (including mine) received a call Monday evening recorded by Senator Chuck Grassley, making the case for David Young.

Any comments related to today’s election are welcome in this thread.

P.S. – A testy exchange with a reporter about how President Barack Obama has handled the ebola outbreak underscored why Joni Ernst’s handlers didn’t want her sitting down with most Iowa newspaper editorial boards.

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