Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Early Vote Seems Down

State/national readers: A Locals Only Post

It's hard to measure, because it's been a long time since we had a "normal" early voting cycle in Iowa City. But just anecdotally, with one week till the election, voting seems down. Despite a spike on Monday, there's been less than half the total requests that we saw in that last "normal" cycle, 2003.

Through 4 PM Monday, 570 voters (in all 11 cities) had requested ballots, mainly from Iowa City and mainly at the auditor's office. 515 ballots have been returned; no campaign has made a big vote by mail effort so it's just the usual self-starters.

There's no way we'll match the 6251 absentees counted in 2013, but that's not a fair benchmark, with that cycle's giant campus satellite sites petitioned by the failed effort to repeal 21 Bar, and the hot, Koch Brothers fueled race in Coralville.

But even other recent years are tough to compare. Here's a look at where things stood eight days out in other recent city elections, and some caveats. Again, these are for all cities, but all years are Iowa City dominated.
  • 2011. 2095 requested, 849 returned. And 753 of them were never returned. If they had been, Raj Patel would be up for re-election; Michelle Payne's win was by less votes than Patel's unreturned mailed ballots. Payne's win was also with fewer votes than Rockne Cole got losing in 2013.
  • 2009: 527 "requested," 222 returned. That was pretty much The Year Without An Election, as it was obvious on filing deadline day that townies Terry Dickens and Susan Mims would crush two students.
I qualify "requested" because a lot of those were overseas ballots. The way the law was interpreted then, overseas requests were good for four years. So a lot of ballots went to people who requested ballots for the presidential and had no idea about a city election. The law has changed and overseas requests are now only good for a calendar year.
  • 2007, just for fun: 5934 requests, 3993 returned. That was round one of 21 Bar, when Rick Dobyns tried to raise the age to 21 and got beat.
  • 2005: 1836 requested, mostly from a vote by mail drive pushed by Mid-American Energy, who ran a $600,000 campaign to crush the public power initiative. (That was also the year Dobyns lost his first council race, meaning Dobyns has a lifetime 1 W 2 L record.)

So that takes us back to the last more or less "normal" cycle, 2003. At this point we had 1190 ballots requested, double the current count, but only 341 returned. In part, that's because more people were voting by mail a dozen years ago. Also, there was a city primary that year, so in person early voting started later. (We were voting at the office this year the day BEFORE what would have been primary day.)

But clearly, there was much more interest in voting, as measured by people taking a step toward voting.
All other things being equal, lower turnout, especially lower EARLY turnout, would indicate an advantage for the un-named slate of Payne, Dobyns, Scott McDonough and Tim Conroy. Despite Mayor Matt Hayek's attack on "slates," there have been an awful lot of four candidate endorsements from long lists of the usual suspects.

The Core 4 candidates - Jim Throgmorton, Rockne Cole, John Thomas and Pauline Taylor - also have a lot of four candidate endorsements, though I don't believe Taylor Swift has actually endorsed. (If Katy Perry can...) But they also attract the kind of voters who are less sure when the election is or where to go, which means they have to work harder at it.
Also making things more interesting at the last minute: a write in campaign in University Heights, marking Round Five of The Battle Of Saint Andrews.

So there's early voting 7:45 to 5:30 all week and again Monday November 2 at the auditor's office. Next Tuesday, gotta go to the polling place. There's also satellites at UIHC on Thursday and Friday (10-4). Thursday (10-6), Friday (10-4) and Sunday (noon-5) at the Iowa City library. No voting Saturday. We heard something about an undefeated Top Ten football team playing at home.

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