By Craig Robinson
Iowa Democrats always get a lot of good press when early voting begins. They tout how many requests for absentee ballots they have compared to Republicans, and the media eats it up and asks for seconds. The only problem is that requests don’t count, only returned ballots do. Despite what you hear on the news or from the talking heads, Democrats are not dominating when it comes to early voting. In fact, they are trending in the wrong direction.
Absentee Ballots Returned from October 1 to October 29
Percentage of Total Ballots Received from Democrats:
62% (Oct 1), 59% (Oct 8), 51% (Oct 15), 47% (Oct 22), 44% (Oct 29)
Percentage of Total Ballots Received from Republicans:
20% (Oct 1), 23% (Oct 8), 29% (Oct 15), 31% (Oct 22), 32% (Oct 29)
Percentage of No Party Ballots Received:
17% (Oct 1), 18% (Oct 8), 19% (Oct 15), 21% (Oct 22), 23% (Oct 29)
Democrats have seen their percentage of total returned absentees go from 62 percent to 44 percent in the last month, while the percentage of total ballots received from Republicans and no party absentee ballots has increased. At 44 percent, Democrats are exactly where they were in absentee ballots returned at the end of the 2010 election. Democrats got throttled that year losing the governor’s office, the majority in the Iowa State House, and they almost lost the state senate. They are also behind when you compare this year’s early votes to 2008 early votes. That year, Democrats accounted for 47 percent of the absentee ballots, and bested Republicans by an 18-point margin in the absentee ballot count.
The margin this year currently stands at 12 percent, which is substantially better than it was for Republicans in 2008. As mentioned above, Republicans and no party absentees continue to rise in terms of percentage of total early votes actually returned.
Democrats are expected to have more total early votes cast than Republicans, but what’s important to watch is the margin between Republicans and Democrats, as well as the total number of early votes and how it compares to previous election cycles. In both of those regards, Iowa Republicans seem to be in good shape.
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