Monday, June 07, 2010

Early voting indicates a Republican day

Early voting indicates a Republican day

Usually early voting numbers give me some kind of a clue what sort of election day we'll see, but I'm having a harder time than usual this primary.

Here in the People's Republic, early voting ran close to the 2006 levels, with 1249 Democratic ballots and 846 Republican votes returned through the end of today. Voter registration in Johnson County is roughly 2.5 Democrats for every Republican, yet that absentee ratio is closer to 60-40.

The total of 2095 is close to the levels of 2006, which was the second highest turnout primary we've seen here. (The all time record, of course, was the last time we saw Terry Branstad on a primary ballot: the famous "Gopher Primary" of 1994.)

But it's hard to use that as an indicator because because the turnout patterns between 2006 and 2010 are so different. In Johnson County, 2006 was dominated by two courthouse races: the open seat county attorney primary won by Janet Lyness and the Don't Tread On Me supervisor race where Larry Meyers (we miss ya, buddy) knocked off Mike Lehman. And oh, yeah, there was a Governor's race too (statewide 39% winner Chet Culver ran third here). Those Republicans who stayed in their party in `06 had the excitement of a Secretary of State race, won by a guy who dropped out a month later, and a Secretary of Ag primary.

This year the action's on the right, with the high-profile governor's race and an increasingly nasty 2nd CD race. And though it didn't effect early voting because it broke today, there's also that last second effort to write in 2002 Senate candidate Bill Salier (NOT "Big Plant Sale") over too-liberal Chuck Grassley.

Branstad in particular ran a vote by mail drive the likes of which we hadn't seen from a Republican in a while. Back in the general elections of the, well, Branstad era, mass request mailings used to go out to every Republican with an URGENT! OFFICIAL VOTING MATERIALS! TIME SENSITIVE DO NOT DELAY!! DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER!!! style to them. But in the post-Florida era, Republicans moved toward pushing voters to Election Day and cast doubt on the legitimacy of absentee voting, in large part because Democrats got really, really good at it. It's even in Matt Schultz' web ad: "Vote early, vote often might be the Chicago way, but it's not the Iowa way."

Terry Branstad, who has never lost an election, knows better. Schultz looks at absentee voting ans says: if you can't beat `em, ban `em. Branstad says, if you can't beat `em, you haven't been trying as hard.

The statistic that may be most predictive of Tuesday is the way no-party voters are moving.

It's a rule of thumb that, despite their reluctance to designate a party, "independent" voters in a community end up splitting pretty similarly to those who register with a party. Obama's 70-28 Johnson County win over McCain? Exactly 2.5 to one; despite all the independents, exactly the same as the Dem to Republican ratio.

So, all other things being equal, you should see no party voters in Johnson County picking a party at something like that 2.5 to 1 ratio. But in a primary, all things are almost never equal. A typical year would see local I Pick The Person Not The Party types flocking into a Democratic supervisor race.

But this election, the ratio is close to even. 107 early voting independents joined the Democrats, and a nearly even 90 have gone to the Republicans.

Also look at the vote at the auditor's office: nearly dead even with 350 Republicans and 365 Dems. That's the closest kind of early voting to election day: a special trip to one place. So maybe that's the best indicator for tomorrow.

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