Wednesday, November 09, 2016

What The Iowa GOP Trifecta Means For Voting

I'm still transitioning from the professional to the political on this night after the election, so I'm not yet capable to dig into the deep meaning of the election. So I'll stay in the professional zone and go over what the Republican takeover of the Iowa Senate, and thus the whole state government, will do to election law and process in Iowa.

Photo ID is of course a given.  It's dogma to the party base, it's explained with simplistic arguments ("I have to show an ID to do X, Y and Z...") and opposed only with complex meta-arguments about disproportionally. And mostly because that very disproportionally makes it so effective in its true intent: keeping Undesirables from voting. In most states this would mean ethnic minorities, but in Iowa it also means young mobile people in particular students.  The only question is how strict the law will be.

Next on the chopping block is satellite voting. Folks in campus counties and bigger cities, like the only six counties that Hillary carried last night, like the convenience of voting at their campus or a library or a hospital. People are more likely to vote where they spend their lives, so campus sites are crucial to the student vote.  The small counties with scattered small towns don't have the critical mass of population or the high-traffic locations to justify the sites, and they simply don't work. (Wal-Mart refuses at the corporate level to host early voting sites. I've tried.)
Of all the voting options available to Iowans, satellite voting produces the strongest Democratic percentages. Margins of 8 to 10 Democrats to one Republican are pretty common at the Iowa City Public Library. And since urban Democrats like satellite voting and rural Republicans don't use it, satellite voting is dead.

Satellite voting is "oh, I can vote here today?" while voting at the auditor's office is more like,  "I'm going to be out of town Tuesday so I need to vote." Which is why voting at your auditor's office will likely survive.

Older people and Lifelong Residents (Iowa City voters know that code term) are much more likely to know where the courthouse is, what the hours are, and are more likely to plan ahead. Even in Johnson County, in elections other than general elections, the office vote leans older and more conservative that the average of the electorate. I've called many local elections wrong because I spend all day waiting on old Republicans crossing over for a primary and asking "how soon can I change back."

Office voting is likely to change, though, probably with far fewer days than the long-standing 40 day voting window for primary and general elections.

Voting by mail will also survive, because it's the method Republicans are most likely to use. Mass mailings of absentee requests  (which Democrats do too) net a lot of GOP seniors.

The restrictions here are instead likely to focus on how requests can be made and how ballots are returned, under the cynical rationale of "ballot security."  “I believe no one should be touching your absentee ballot except you, an authorized election official or a postal worker,” Secretary of State Paul Pate has said. So door knocking for absentee requests could be curtailed, and ballot chasing could be restricted or eliminated - and it's Democrats who do those things.

On-line voter registration may also survive, in part because that welcome innovation was Pate's baby and in part because it requires that Iowa driver's license which newcomers and out of state students don't have.

Election day registration was one of the first things the Democratic trifecta did in 2007. The question is whether it's popular enough with the public to survive. My gut feeling is not, or that it will be changed Wisconsin-style to something so narrow as to be almost unusable (like the cannabis oil law). More likely the pre-registration deadline will be pushed back to 20 or 30 days.

Clean redistricting is probably too deeply embedded in the Iowa political culture to come under attack. It's also not a "necessary" change because the GOP is doing just fine with the law as is. And meddling with it would probably prove unpopular with independents.

I wouldn't be surprised to see an earlier poll closing time discussed. Iowa closes at a relatively late 9 PM for primary and general elections. Republicans and sadly some Democrats have supported rolling that back to 8, which is the closing time for local elections. But Democratic legislators have always stopped it. My own look at the numbers shows that the 8 to 9 hour gets about as many voters as any other part of the day.

Finally, one change is happening without legislative action. Gary Johnson topped the 2 percent bar in Iowa, which gives the Libertarian Party their long sought goal of full party status. The main difference from the "political organization" status they currently share with the Greens is that there will now be a Libertarian primary in 2018. The signature levels for a just barely big enough to qualify party to get its candidates on the ballot in Iowa are minuscule, and primary turnout is likely to be just as minuscule. My county had 44 voters in the last third party primary, for the Greens in 2002. The practical effect is a lot more printing costs and testing time for auditors, for ballots few people will use.

No comments: