Tag Archives: absentee voting

Status of the Iowa Early Vote

Former Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign operative Adrian Gray has been the “go to” source all things in early Iowa voting.  Only last night Gray tweeted out the following:

Now we have the top Iowa journalist, Jennifer Jacobs digging through the data and filing the best update on Iowa early voting:

For weeks, the Obama campaign has gone all out to trumpet the Democrats’ lead in early voting in Iowa, but the GOP has gained momentum since absentee ballots became available.

GOP resurgence

Republican voters’ requests for ballots have eclipsed the Democrats for 10 straight days, significantly shrinking President Barack Obama’s advantage, state records show.

Democrat strength

Obama campaign aides note that they’re running the biggest early-vote effort Iowa has ever seen, almost doubling the number of absentee ballots cast for their side at this point four years ago. Twenty-five days out from Election Day in 2008, the number of votes cast by Iowa Democrats was about 54,500. This year, about 115,000 had been cast.

Democrat playbook

In April, Obama campaign aides began their big push for Democratic voters to fill out paperwork to request an absentee ballot, then cast it by mail or in person. In contrast, the Republicans say their plan was to target efforts to Sept. 27, the first day absentee ballots could be turned in. As of now, Democrats are ahead — in both ballots requested (68,000 more than Republicans) and ballots cast (53,000 more), Iowa secretary of state records show.

GOP history

GOP voters in Iowa are more inclined to vote on Election Day than by absentee ballot. Four years ago, Republican John McCain won among Iowa votes cast exclusively on Election Day — 16,804 more Republicans than Democrats turned out. That was a 2.5 percentage-point edge for the GOP, even though McCain lost by nearly 10 points. Absentee ballots the Obama campaign had whipped up from voters in the preceding weeks made the difference.

Dueling claims

On Thursday, the Obama campaign held a press call to talk up the campaign’s strength in early voting in swing states. In Iowa, “Democrats lead in vote-by-mail ballots, in-person early voting, total voting and total ballot requests,” Jeremy Byrd, national field director, told reporters. In a memo Monday, Romney’s political director, Rich Beeson, countered that, saying so far 94 percent of the early votes in the swing states have not yet been cast when compared to the pace of four years ago. “To claim a ‘big advantage’ based off of a phase that’s just 6 percent complete is almost as absurd as predicting the outcome of a baseball game after the second out,” Beeson wrote.

Momentum shift

In Iowa, momentum on ballots requested began to turn Sept. 29, according to the state’s tally. The trajectory has favored Republicans for 10 reports in a row since then. On vote-by-mail and in-person ballots, during the period since ballots became available, the GOP picked up about 99,000 returned ballots, while the Democrats picked up about 75,000, state records show.

Minding the gap

Neither side thinks Republicans will entirely surpass Democrats in absentee ballot participation in the next three weeks — the Obama campaign is promoting it more, and history suggests the Democrats will maintain the edge. The Republicans’ mission is to keep narrowing the gap over the next 21 days, Kochel said. Romney backers believe they will easily surpass McCain’s previous 2.5 percentage-point edge in Election Day turnout and come closer then ever to matching the Democrats’ absentee ballots this year. If they’re right, Romney would be within striking distance.

The 2010 blueprint

Iowa Democrats led in absentee ballots in 2010, but lost heavily in the general election. Currently, among active voters in Iowa, the GOP has a registration advantage of 11,000.

Metrics to watch

Messina said he’s a data-driven guy, and the most telling numbers of the election are the registered voters, ballots requested and early votes cast.

GOP Winning Absentee Voting in Virginia

Early voting has grow dramatically over the last few election cycles and reading the tea leaves is becoming a cottage industry. Today we see genuinely positive news for the Romney campaign regarding absentee voting in Virginia with a few caveats outlined at the very bottom.  An analysis of absentee voting in Virginia reveals the following:

Early absentee ballot in Virginia is brisk in cities and counties that voted Republican in the last presidential election, according to a breakdown of absentee ballots cast so far this year for the November 6 election. As of Friday, the State Board of Elections reports that 60,612 voters had mailed in an absentee ballot or cast an absentee vote in person since September 21. This year, Virginia Republicans are mobilizing supporters to “vote early” this year, to avoid a repeat of 2008 when Obama won nearly two-thirds of the 511,933 absentee ballots cast in Virginia.

  • Seven of the 10 localities reporting the fastest rate of absentee voting this year compared to four years ago were won by Republican John McCain.
  • Seven of the 10 localities reporting the slowest pace of absentee balloting this year were carried by Democrat Barack Obama.

The lessons from this analysis are more stark if you look at them in reverse.  The “slow” Obama localities lead you to draw inferences that enthusiasm is way down for Obama, which is consistent with everything we see in polls.  When you combine that with the “fast” McCain localities you see high enthusiasm in GOP hotbeds which exacerbates the bad news for Obama and good news for Romney.  These types of changes are huge considering one of the ways Obama won so decisively in 2008 was the volume of votes he banked before election day often creating insurmountable advantages.


BTW: On the “slowest localities” I think the chart is supposed to be in reverse order but I just used the original graphics.


I do genuinely believe the above analysis is correct and Romney 2012 is capturing the enthusiasm wave mentioned.  However, evidence like the above is why I am hesitant to blog early voting. The takeaways are really anecdotal not certain, meaning they can lead you to draw logical inferences that may be completely untrue beneath the surface.

Democrat Perspective

If you take the exact same numbers from above, you could argue something very different is going on. Every poll shows Barack Obama has his base locked up, even moreso than Romney. And many of these demographics support him to such high levels he has little room to find more votes among those groups. So if Obama is going to find votes he needs to send his ground troops into red areas and make certain every last Obama person in an otherwise red area votes.  The way to do that is a) find them, and b) convince them to vote early.  To be clear Obama achieved this to wonderful success in 2008 and there is little reason to believe he can’t do similar in 2012.  To assume otherwise is hubris and politically dangerous. Under this analysis, Team Obama who has a history of success in early voting may be achieving the same success as 2008, but now they’re doing it in red areas. So the “fast” red localities are really just the vaunted Obama ground game playing on their opponent’s turf while the “slow” Obama localities are are areas where Obama is confident those votes are locked up in his favor and they can get attention later in the race. this is how a Democrat might see the exact same numbers and they are not necessarily wrong.

That said, I do not believe this second analysis is accurate based on the nature of Obama’s campaign strategy which is a base turnout.  Obama does not campaign in Battleground Counties like Romney does, his campaign is one of division towards targeted Democrat demographics not reaching out to red areas, and these findings are consistent the enthusiasm gap we see nationwide.  I only point out this alternative, and defensible, view point so we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves over metrics that while positive for the GOP are not as certain to achieve the results glass-half-full partisans might think.