Thursday, December 17, 2020

Johnson County Number Crunching, Part 4: Who Voted

Six weeks post-election I'm well on the road to recovery. I went non-stop for about a year and a half - from the time I started booking caucus rooms in April 2019, through the primary and into the presidential. That's three whole Taylor Swift albums if that's how you keep score.

It takes some time post-election to process voter history records - a recount slows that down a bit - but we wrapped up a couple weeks back and now I've had some time to figure out who voted by party, how they voted by method, and I've done some guessing about how the no party voters went here in the People's Republic.

Voter history records are a different thing than canvassed vote totals, and the two different sets of numbers are rarely a perfect match. The main problem is that 99 counties are all balancing the books at once and that registration activity is constant. So sometimes another county takes a voter away from us before we can give them credit for voting - which is NOT the same thing as counting the vote. The statistical report for our county is within 20 of the canvassed number of voters, which is about as close as it ever gets.

Here's the party breakdown of voters by party, with a grand total and split into by election day and early voting. 

Voters Early Eday Total
total 60915   23262   84177  
Democratic 39034 64.08% 7150 30.74% 46184 54.87%
Republican 8714 14.31% 7114 30.58% 15828 18.80%
Libertarian 250 0.41% 271 1.16% 521 0.62%
Green 100 0.16% 51 0.22% 151 0.18%
No Party 12817 21.04% 8676 37.30% 21493 25.53%
The post-election registration percentages were 52.2% Democratic, 18.4% Republican, and 28.5% no party.  Overall turnout is very, very close to that. It's just a little more Democratic and a little less no party.

While the early voters were overwhelmingly Democratic, the Democrats and Republicans were nearly tied on Election Day. More no party people voted on Election Day than either major party.  Libertarians were the only voters more likely to vote on Election Day than early. I suspect that's student-age election day registrations; statistically Libertarians lean very young.

The 72.4% of the total vote that was cast early is down a little bit from the record 76.7% from the primary, probably due to the mail scare and due to COVID fatigue. The primary voting window in May was during the peak of what little semi-shutdown down Iowa had.(One stat we didn't keep: how many mailed-out ballots were returned through the postal system vs. our drop boxes.)

There's four voting plans available to most voters: the polls, mail, satellite sites, and in person at our office - which this year was actually drive-thru voting in our parking ramp. There's also "UOCAVA" voting, which stands for Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. People outside auditor's offices often call these "military" ballots, but a lot of overseas civilians get them too. In most years there are also "absentee team" ballots, sometimes called "nursing home" ballots. We had a tiny number of these, to hospital in-patients; I lumped them into in-person below.
Here's how voters in each party chose their voting plan. 

Party Overseas Mail In-Person Satellite total early Polls Total
Democratic 424 0.92% 23619 51.14% 10696 23.16% 4282 9.27% 39021 84.49% 7163 15.51% 46184
Republican 58 0.37% 4504 28.46% 2974 18.79% 1174 7.42% 8710 55.03% 7118 44.97% 15828
Libertarian 4 0.77% 87 16.70% 112 21.50% 47 9.02% 250 47.98% 271 52.02% 521
Green 1 0.66% 44 29.14% 33 21.85% 22 14.57% 100 66.23% 51 33.77% 151
No Party 180 0.84% 6515 30.31% 4192 19.50% 1917 8.92% 12804 59.57% 8689 40.43% 21493
Total 667 0.79% 34679 41.30% 18007 21.39% 7442 8.84% 60885 72.33% 23292 27.67% 84177

Democrats were much much more likely to vote by mail and much, much less likely to go to the polls.  Everyone was about equally likely to vote at a satellite or at our drive-thru. No partys (I really hate the word "independent") and Republicans were similar in behavior - less likely mail, more likely polls. Libertarians were the only people MORE likely to go to the polls than vote early,

Here's the vote totals, which we're more familiar with. This is also lower than the total turnout of 84,198. There were 347 presidential under-votes, which may seem hard to believe but is in the normal range. Sorry, Kanye, but I've combined the lower tier and the write-ins into an "other" category.

Votes Early Election Day Total
total 60672   23179   83851  
Biden 48664 80.21% 10513 45.36% 59177 70.57%
Trump 11024 18.10% 11901 51.16% 22925 27.23%
Libertarian 522 0.86% 442 1.90% 964 1.15%
Green 148 0.24% 65 0.28% 213 0.25%
Other/write in 314 0.52% 258 1.11% 572 0.68%
In my years here, Democrats have been more likely to vote early than Republicans, but this year the trend was especially exaggerated. There seemed to be intent and purpose to Republicans wanting to vote on Election Day. Even though about 3/4 of the vote was early, Trump got more votes on Election Day than early. He actually won Election Day. 
As I noted earlier, the big voting shift in Johnson County this cycle was voters moving from third parties to Biden. Of those who didn't, Election Day voters were twice as likely to vote Libertarian or Other Third Party than early voters.

Now I indulge in sheer speculation and try to figure out what the no partys did. There's no way to tell, of course, but I'll play with numbers and make some false assumptions: that all members of a party voted for their party's candidate, and that only No Party people did write ins or voted for miscellaneous candidates. Then I just subtracted the difference. 

Estimated No Party Votes Early Election Day Total
total 12574   8593   21167  
Biden 9630 76.59% 3363 39.14% 12993 61.38%
Trump 2310 18.37% 4787 55.71% 7097 33.53%
Libertarian 272 2.16% 171 1.99% 443 2.09%
Green 48 0.38% 14 0.16% 62 0.29%
Other/write in 314 2.50% 258 3.00% 572 2.70%

No party early voters voted much like the rest of the early voters, nearly four to one Biden, and just a little bit more third party. But the Election Day no party voters leaned about 5 points more Trump than the rest of election day voters. As we saw, the Election Day voters by party affiliation leaned disproportionately R as well. 

The Election Day no partys likely had a lot of weak voters or people who though COVID was Fake News, both groups that would lean Trump. End result was that no party overall was very blue by the standards of a normal Iowa place but a little redder than the standards of the People's Republic.

This really nails down my long time theory: No party voters are just like partisan voters, they just don't like checking the box for whatever reason, and once you get them in the booth they pretty much behave like partisans.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

The Caucuses Greatest Hits Version 5.0 - 2020 Edition

In a post I first wrote back in 2006 and have updated periodically. I've looked at and ranked all the caucus cycles back to 1976.  As for history and the caucuses themselves, a mixed bag.  Irrelevant nearly half the time, critical a little less often.

Not Worth The Airfare To Waterloo

21. 1984 and 2004 Republican. The Republican tradition was to hold no presidential vote at all in incumbent re-elect years.That tradition ended in 2020, not because of Trump's minor opponents but because state party leadership seemed to think not having a vote in 2020 would hurt the case for First in 2024. Ironically, this happened as other state Republican parties canceled their contests.

20. 1996 Democratic. The word went down from Des Moines to the Democratic county chairs: “The President would like a unanimous re-nomination and this WILL happen.” Self-starters in a couple lefty college precincts elected a very small handful of Nader and Uncommitted protest delegates, but those results got swept under the rug. Clinton came out and campaigned the final weekend, largely to step on the GOP story (Actually Being President trumps winning the caucus), but it was in basketball arenas, not chat n’ chews.

18 (tie). 2012 Democratic.  As close to an unopposed caucus as possible short of “The President would like a unanimous re-nomination and this WILL happen.” The state party went to bat for actually having an alignment, which Chicago didn't want. But without a live person as an Obama opponent (despite Bernie Sanders' suggestion), the dissenters were split between Uncommitted and crossing over for Ron Paul. In the end the Uncommitteds, mostly made up of folks allied with the simultaneous Occupy movement, made a lot of noise out of proportion to their 1.5% of the delegates. Rated up one notch because that 1.5% actually got honestly reported, not suppressed as in 1996.

18 (tie). 2020 Republican. Iowa Republicans broke with tradition in 2020, in part because they were concerned that with no actual vote they would put First at risk (this was before the 2020 Democrats removed all doubt). But even though they counted the votes against Trump, Bill Weld and Joe Walsh proved to be woefully ineffective even as protest vote placeholders.

17. 1992 Republican. The Pat Buchanan Brigade was looking like a serious threat to win New Hampshire - he ended up at 37.5% there - but the inside the Des Moines Beltway crowd stuck with the tradition of not having a vote in an incumbent year. That decision was a small win for George HW, and that no-vote decision was more important than the 2020 decision to vote. So this gets the highest rank of the de facto uncontested caucuses.

Ultimately Irrelevant

16. 1992 Democratic. Hometown boy Tom Harkin runs and wins big, though not as big as it looked because of some skilled realignment work at viability time. That 76% Harkin delegate count included a lot of stealth supporters of other candidates.

Paul Tsongas was already on the ground in Iowa when Harkin announced, but he quickly bailed. There were a couple feints from Bob Kerrey and Jerry Brown but nothing serious. Everyone showed up for the cycle's lone cattle call, the then-Jefferson Jackson dinner, but between low interest and a blizzard the hall was half empty.

In the end, Iowa kept first place after `92 only because Tom Harkin was the only Bill Clinton rival who enthusiastically jumped on the bandwagon. The other also-rans could barely hide their obvious contempt for Clinton. (Kerrey and Brown probably wrote themselves in that November.)

The long term importance of the 1992 caucuses may be that Bill, and by extension Hillary, Clinton did not have to retail campaign in Iowa, and that had a ripple effect into 2008 and 2016.

15 (tie). 2020 Democratic. In the end, the importance of the 2020 Democratic caucuses will be that they were the last, but what about the cycle itself, in terms of the traditional momentum and winnowing role? 

The results problem killed the momentum but even early on it was clear there were two leaders. And in the end two winners.

The delegate count winner, Pete Buttigeig, was a flavor of the week fad who had little traction after Iowa and who at best will end up with a make-work administration role rather than the high level cabinet post he craved. He got his breakout from obscurity not from the caucus “win”, but from pre-Iowa polling and fundraising.

I don’t have an answer for the Buttigeig problem: someone who, despite being absolutely not ready for the White House, is a rising star stuck in an area where winning a higher race is difficult. But if our rhetoric is Fight Everywhere, he should try. Indiana Senator Todd Young is up in 2022.

The popular vote winner, Bernie Sanders, lost ground from his 2016 tie, as the Not Hillary voters he had to himself that year dispersed to the rest of the field.  Despite his strong core of support, he was most people's Anyone But choice and started losing contests as soon as voters consolidated behind the eventual winner.

(As much as I loathe Sanders, who as a non-Democrat should never have been allowed to participate in Democratic nominating contests, I consider him the real winner. We kept score two ways and I consider popular vote the more fair way to call the winner. He probably had more raw votes in 2016, too, but we didn’t keep score that way that year.)

The eventual president-elect finished a poor fourth, which in prior years would have a drop-out finish. In the end, Joe Biden was the real winner of the caucuses, because he got a mulligan on his poor results. By the time we figured it all out, South Carolina and Super Tuesday had happened and the train had left the station.

Not a single candidate quit based on the Iowa results. The winnowing happened before Iowans even caucused, on factors like debate qualification, fundraising and national polls. One of those winnowed-out before Iowa candidates, Kamala Harris, became the running mate.

So the caucus results had no real impact on the nomination outcome at all. It's like we never happened. And for all the “organizing” we did – this is NOT an attack on the organizers and volunteers - in the fall we wound up losing the state to Trump, losing a Senate race we had a shot at, losing two US House seats, and losing ground in the legislature.

14. 2000 Both. On the Democratic side Al Gore easily beat Bill Bradley in what was merely the first moment in the overall national dynamic; Dollar Bill made his stand on friendlier turf in New Hampshire and fell just short there, and that pretty much ended it. (Still mad: Anyone who thinks things were "rigged" against Sanders should have been a Bradley 2000 person. Basically the entire power structure of the party was behind Gore and the prevailing attitude was "how DARE Bradley 'challenge' him.")

On the Republican side it was like one of those boycott-era Olympics: W won but the toughest competitor, McCain, was a no-show playing a Screw Iowa strategy. The truly significant GOP event was the straw poll that winnowed out more candidates (E. Dole, Quayle, and Buchanan bolting to Reform) than the actual caucus (Orrin Hatch, as if that wasn’t obvious).  Comic relief: People who took Gary Bauer seriously, Alan Keyes in Michael Moore’s mosh pit.

Secondary event in nomination contest

13. 2016 Republican. Whichever contest was first would have narrowed a field that peaked at 17 candidates. The biggest event of the cycle was actually a non-event - the Ames Straw Poll that had been the dominant pre-caucus event from 1987 to 2011 was first moved out of Ames, then canceled entirely when the leading candidates refused to show up.

The field was down to a mere 12 by caucus night. Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio, in that order, each took about a quarter of the vote, with the other nine splitting the remaining 25%. The immediate two past Iowa winners, Huckabee and Santorum, fizzled, and that effectively ended their campaigns.

Rand Paul failed to keep his father's coalition, because all of the "he's alternative, dude!" vote was caucusing for Bernie Sanders. The dudebro overlap between Ron/Rand Paul and Sanders supporters, which makes little ideological sense but is clearly a Thing, is a Ph.D. dissertation for someone.

Cruz's win turned out to be an anomaly and a relatively minor event. Cruz wasn't even Trump's final opposition - that turned out to be John Kasich, merely because he refused to quit.

12. 1980 Democratic. The incumbent won the first test of Kennedy-Carter, but that battle of giants was played out on a national, even global, stage and Iowa was a bit player.

11. 2008 Republican. Important to the dynamic of the contest, but not central to the result.

Mitt Romney was looking like the guy to beat in December 2007. Which Mike Huckabee did in January 2008, after first beating Sam Brownback at the straw poll to win the mantle of THE religious conservative candidate. Had Iowa Republicans gotten behind the Mitt, they may have headed off the chaos that was the GOP field in January. Instead, we proved that there was no there there for Fred Thompson, and that the Ron Paul Яэvoutionaries were noisy in disproportion to their actual numbers (but see 2012 below). But really, we just stirred the pot, and the decisive event was in Florida between two men with Screw Iowa Lite strategies, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.

Our next contest was very similar, but the tiebreaker is that the Iowa winner actually won the nomination:

10. 1996 Republican. What might have been: Pat Buchanan was within 3% of Bob Dole, but the social conservatives in Cedar Rapids backed Alan Keyes instead; Keyes thus won the second biggest county. One minister at one mega-church makes a different choice, and we’d have had a major upset.

Some all too obvious field winnowing (Dick Lugar???) happens. Phil Gramm gets out too, but his real stumble was in Louisiana’s jump-the-starting-gun contest a week earlier. 

Comic relief: Easily the funniest caucus! Dole, genuinely witty in his non-Satan mode, Steve Forbes the android, Alan Keyes… but they all pale next to Morrie Taylor, the tire magnate who literally tried to buy a win one vote at a time. Failed miserably but looked like he had more fun than the rest put together.

9. 1988 Democratic. Other than Tom Harkin's favorite son run which doesn't really count, this is the only time from 1976 to 2016 that Iowa Democrats did not vote for the eventual nominee. The nomination contest came down to Dukakis vs. Jackson, neither of whose fortunes were affected by Iowa.

In `88 Al Gore, dirty Prince lyrics still ringing in his ears, was the first candidate to use the Screw Iowa strategy.  It's never worked (save for the Harkin year), but nevertheless Gore wound up outlasting the two Iowa leaders.

There's a story, long told by Paul Simon loyalists, that a county chair sat on his Simon-friendly results until the Register had printed its GEPHARDT WINS headline, which mattered in the pre-internet era. Rules got changed after that so that results are reported direct from the precinct to the state without going through a county chair, but this one proved the winner-take-all-news theory that was prevalent at the time (and which was supposed to be the anchor of my aborted masters' thesis).

Comic relief: Gary Hart’s last minute return to the race, campaigning with his wife.

8. 2012 Republican. The real importance of the 2012 Republican caucuses was not its relatively small role in designating the nominee. That was always going to come down to Mitt vs. Not Mitt.  Rick Santorum never really got the bump from the win, because of the dead heat, the botched result announcement, and the recount that delayed the final result. And also because Sheldon Adelson kept Newt Gingrich on life support far too long,

No, the real importance was what happened to the Republican Party of Iowa after the presidential vote. The Romney and Santorum people both said "yay, we won," went home, and both in turn were right. The Ron Paul people stuck around, elected themselves as all the delegates and committee people, and took over the state party structure.

The consequences had a huge ripple effect through state, and even national, internal Republican politics for the next two years, until Terry Branstad, Jeff Kaufmann and the rest of the grownups took party control back in 2014 (the most important OFF-year caucus). This one may move up the charts depending on the long-term fate of the caucuses, and so may the next:

7. 2016 Democratic.  Iowa was a big deal - in the same way that the first post in an epic flame war that eventually breaks Godwin's Law is a big deal.

Had Hillary Clinton solidly beaten Bernie Sanders in Iowa, 2016 would have been over as fast as you can say "Bill Bradley" and the whole Sanders phenomenon would never have happened. Oh, he might have stayed on some ballots and accumulated a few votes. But without the dead heat in Iowa, and the money and attention that followed, he would have been an asterisk, like Dennis Kucinich playing out the string in the late states in 2004 after John Kerry had clinched and everyone else had quit.

I have long said, and the 2020 results confirmed, that half the Sanders vote was simply Not Hillary, and that alone would have gotten Martin O'Malley to 30 points in Iowa had Sanders not run. Indeed, that was probably O'Malley's whole strategy, to be the only person willing to run against Clinton.

The fact that Sanders was even allowed to run in 2016 without joining the Democratic Party was a decision by the DNC - ironically, headed at the time by the same Debbie Wasserman Schultz who supposedly "rigged" the nomination against Sanders. DWS's inability to take Sanders seriously as a threat to Clinton, and her under-estimation of Clinton's negatives, are just more signs of her ineptitude.

Sanders himself may have faded (from 49.9999% in Iowa on Caucus Night to about 25% in 2020) but his campaign mainstreamed a progressive stance that other candidates at lower levels are now seeing success with (in places very different than Iowa). The long range ranking of 2016 may move up if this turns out to be a permanent change.

Significant event in nomination contest

6. 1988 Republican. Pat Robertson pushes George HW into third place. Robertson was insignificant thereafter, but the blow made Bush go on a fight of his life attack against Bob Dole in New Hampshire. Dole took the bait and was goaded into “stop lying about my record.” This convinces HW that hard negative was the way to go. That road went through the flag factory and Willie Horton, and ended at the White House. Comic relief: Al Haig.

5. 1984 Democratic. Gary Hart barely squeaked past his old boss, George McGovern. But second, no matter how distant, was enough to make him the Not Mondale and propel him up about 40 points in eight days for a New Hampshire win, a brief but genuine shot at the nomination, and (pre-Donna Rice) 1988 front-runner status. The Right Stuff sank like Gus Grissom’s capsule, and you're an old timer if you catch that reference.

Decisive event in nomination contest

4. 2004 Democratic.

Iowa was the whole ball game in 2004. Nothing that happened after Iowa mattered nearly as much as what happened in Iowa.  The guy who won got the nomination, and the guy in second got VP.  And the guy in third?

The Dean Scream goes down as the single most memorable caucus moment, but everyone forgets The Scream was after The Much More Important Disappointing Third Place. (Which was helped by the most coordinated cross-campaign effort I ever saw, as the other candidates worked together to realign in whatever way hurt Dean the most.) After Dean had been the front-runner for months, Iowans got scared at the last minute - mostly thanks to Dick Gephardt, who went on a suicide attack that took them both out and set Gephardt up for reward in the Kerry Administration.

Made History

3. 1976 Democratic. This one made both Jimmy Carter and the caucuses themselves. Carter didn’t actually win this, you know. He was second to Uncommitted. But I know folks who still brag “Jimmy Carter slept on my couch.”

I’m torn about ranking a caucus that directly produced a president below one that didn't. But read on.

2. 1980 Republican. In the first true Iowa Republican caucus, obscure former ambassador, spy boss, and failed Senate candidate George Herbert Walker Bush shocked the ten foot tall colossus of the GOP, Ronald Reagan. This one win puts Poppy on the map and ultimately on the ticket (after the botched Ford “co-presidency” deal at the `80 convention).

So why rank this ahead of Jimmy Carter, especially since Bush Sr. lost that 1980 nomination? The ripple effect. No Iowa win = no Bush 41. And with no HW, do you REALLY think Bush 43 or 45 (please clap) would have made it on their own? 1976 made a president, but 1980 made a dynasty.

Number 1: 2008 Democratic. There's no question the 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses created a president. Iowa was the honing ground for Barack Obama's message and appeal and ground game. We eliminated the entire second tier, and proved that voters in one of the whitest places in America would support a black candidate. Remember, a lot of African-American voters were sticking with Hillary Clinton before Iowa, because Obama "couldn't win." Iowa shattered that myth and the perception of Clinton's inevitability.

It's too soon to tell, and Trump's win blurred things, but the 2008 caucuses may have ushered in not just one president, but a whole era, a new alignment of states that ends the 1968 Nixon-Wallace southern-western coalition for good, at least at the presidential level.

2008 was a whole new map. As late as the first John Edwards campaign, people were sill seriously saying it was impossible to break the Republican "electoral college lock" without southern rural white male voters. Trump has since proven those voters are gone forever - maybe in the urban and exurban North as well.

But that old South has been replaced by the new South, driven by suburban voters who migrated from the North, women, and minorities. Florida has disappointed teh last two times, but Virginia is now solid blue, North Carolina is in play, Georgia flipped in 2020, and even Texas is on the horizon. Barack Obama fueled this alignment, which would not have been possible without that Iowa win.

The 1976 caucuses made one president, but his victory is a mere footnote to a Republican era, brought about by the intensity of Watergate and the Nixon pardon. The 1980 Republican caucuses made two presidents, but they followed the electoral footsteps of others.

How many presidents in an era? Obama wasn't able to transfer this alignment to an immediate successor, because some anchors of the old coalition fell in 2016 (Trump essentially drew three cards to an inside straight with his narrow Wisconsin-Michigan-Pennsylvania wins), but Biden seems to have partially restored and in some places expanded the Obama coalition. On the other hand, he slipped in others, most notably the rural Upper Midwest. Some of those rural Iowa Obama counties aren't ever coming back - but in the big picture Georgia and Arizona are a nice tradeoff.

If the 2008 caucuses ushered in an Obama Realignment, like the FDR Relignment or the Nixon-Wallace Realignment, they could lead to four or five presidents.It's a weaker case than it was a few years ago, but 2008 still deserves the number one spot.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Notes on Undervotes

Johnson County Numbers Part 3

Despite having the best numbers in the district by 14% above any other county, and with the recount still in progress, Johnson County is getting blamed for Rita Hart's heartbreakingly close (47 votes prior to to the ongoing recount) apparent loss.

Two items have been noted: 1) That Johnson was the only county in the district where Hart ran behind Joe Biden and 2) the under votes in the congressional race.

I've already explained most of the presidential vote-shifting pattern in prior posts:

  • While Donald Trump gained percentage points in other Iowa counties over 2016, he pulled an almost identical share in Johnson County, dropping 0.01%. 
  • We had ballpark of 1000 Never Trump Republican votes
  • Joe Biden's percentage gains here were due to 3/4 of the 2016 third party and write in vote shifting his way.

I've waited on voters for 23 years and there are a certain number who loudly proclaim "I only want to vote for president." And as hard as it is for activists to comprehend, folks have got a right to do that. Many, many more ask with a slight embarrassment "do I have to vote for everything?" or "if I skip some races does My Vote still count?" with "My Vote" clearly meaning "For President." Other voters feel, in all good conscience, that they don't want to vote in races they know little about. This pattern is strongest in campus precincts and in our trailer court dominated precincts.

In general, the lower on the ballot you go, the fewer votes you see. I've been a down ballot candidate in a presidential year, and it is next to impossible, even for a major leaguer like a US Senator, to break through the noise of a presidential race. Square or cube that when you have an attention hound like Donald Trump in the mix.

But in a race this close, you need the Johnson County numbers - that's why you're reading this, right? Just exactly how many people are skipping contests here in the People's Republic? Let's look back at the last four presidential cycles. (For statistical purposes I'm including the much less common over-votes, where voters mark more than one target and cancel themselves out, in with the under votes. Either way, it's a vote not cast in the race.)

I've chosen six races: first, the three federal races (there was no 2012 Senate contest). I chose sheriff as an example of an uncontested county-wide one party contest in all four cycles (auditor had a Democrat vs. independent contest in 2008). Last, I looked at the first and last judicial retention vote each year. That was not always the bottom of the ballot due to public measures, but those higher profile contests tend to break the pattern and draw more votes.

What we see is a clear pattern that consistently repeats itself, with minor variation, over the years.

Votes Cast 2008 2012 2016 2020
Total Voters 73,231 76,199 77,476 84,198
President 72,989 75,977 76,940 83,851
Senate 70,413 - 74,833 82,633
US Rep 69,586 72,518 74,189 80,291
Sheriff 51,966 54,507 59,182 65,180
First Judge 41,929 51,194 50,240 58,878
Last Judge 39,109 47,879 47,827 53,663
Undervotes 2008 2012 2016 2020
President -242 -222 -536 -347
Senate -2818 - -2643 -1565
US Rep -3645 -3681 -3287 -3907
Sheriff -21,265 -21,692 -18,294 -19,018
First Judge -31,302 -25,005 -27,236 -25,320
Last Judge -34,122 -28,320 -29,649 -30,535
Undervote % 2008 2012 2016 2020
President -0.33% -0.29% -0.69% -0.41%
Senate -3.85% - -3.41% -1.86%
US Rep -4.98% -4.83% -4.24% -4.64%
Sheriff -29.04% -28.47% -23.61% -22.59%
First Judge -42.74% -32.82% -35.15% -30.07%
Last Judge -46.60% -37.17% -38.27% -36.27%

For whatever reason, several hundred people vote in a presidential election and do not vote for president. Some unknown share of this is error, some of it is blank ballots, and some is just the stubbornness of "I don't like either of them." 

(Either? There are generally 8 to 10 presidential candidates listed on Iowa's ballot, covering every niche from tankie to militia. Although this year, for the first time since 1956, we had no candidate on the ballot with the word "Socialist" in their party - since of course Joe Biden was the Socialist in the race 🤣) 

Note that the presidential under vote is highest in 2016, when both Trump and Clinton had high negatives; that year also saw by far the highest write-in vote for president at nearly 1000.

There's also some number of people who skip races where their party has no candidate, which is common in the Democrat-dominated courthouse races in Johnson County. The sheriff under vote looks slightly higher in 2008 and 2012, where Obama may have drawn more president-only voters who skipped the courthouse contests. The under vote is down a bit in 2020, as the seat was open and Democratic nominee Brad Kunkel had won a high profile primary campaign. In contrast, predecessor Lonny Pulkrabek had no opposition at all the previous three cycles, after winning a contested primary and general election in 2004.

One thing I see here: the end of straight ticket voting after 2016 does not seem to have had as big an impact as expected. People who were partisan enough to mark that straight ticket target, and it was close to a third of all Johnson County voters, are now just as inclined to work their way down the ballot and mark every contest. So eliminating the straight ticket merely serves as punishment for people who have physical difficulty marking the ballot.

You see a definite change in judicial voting patterns after the 2010 defeat of three supreme court justices who backed the marriage equality ruling. Under votes dropped from nearly half to closer to a third. Anecdotally, I hear many more voters saying they want to wait to return mailed ballots so they can "study" (read: "party ID") "the judges."

So that covers the low profile down ballot contests. Let's bounce back up to the top. 

The 2008 Senate race between Tom Harkin and Some Dude Christopher Reed saw a slightly higher under vote because it was seen as non-competitive. The 2016 Grassley-Judge race was not very competitive either, but Patty Judge was at least a well known former statewide official, and Johnson County was the one county she won.

But we see a definite drop in under votes in the Senate race this year. For a brief moment this looked like the pivotal Senate race for control, and Ernst and Greenfield dominated airwaves for months. In the end, all the money pushed maybe a couple thousand more people in our county to mark that race.

The open seat 2nd CD race is high profile NOW, now that it's the closest congressional race in the nation since 1994. But on the October airwaves, it was just a little less prominent than Ernst-Greenfield, and, crucially, it saw just a little less interest.

But that's normal.

What we see looking back over four presidential cycles is a remarkable consistency. In three cycles the under vote lands in a very narrow range between 4.64% and 4.98%. The fourth cycle, 2016, is barely an outlier at 4.24%. 

My theory there is that Christopher Peters, the 2016 libertarian-identified Republican challenger, picked up some Libertarian presidential voters who were under-voters in the other three cycles. In 2008, 2012 and 2020 the Republicans were seen as more mainstream, and there was no big-L Libertarian on the ballot in any of these four US House contests. Generally the Iowa Libertarians have a Senate candidate (alive or dead) and that explains part of the drop from Senate to US House over the years. Other third parties, in contrast, usually contest just the presidential race.

In short, Johnson County voted in the congressional race pretty much the same as it has for some time, with 4 to 5% of voters skipping the race. The professionals working this race would or should have seen these past patterns and accounted for them. I'm not sure what more could have been done to lower that under vote to the Senate race level, other than throwing several tens of millions more at us like Greenfield and Ernst and every interest group in the country did.

So if you're blaming the county that voted 13 to 14 points better for the Democrat in all the top three races than any other county in the state, like we do every cycle, you're throwing the blame in the wrong direction.

Friday, November 13, 2020

How Johnson County Went Democratic For The 15th Time In A Row Since LBJ

(Or: how many different ways can I say "Third Party To Democratic") 

Four years ago, Pat Rynard at Iowa Starting Line did an epic, precinct-level post,  "How Dubuque County Went Republican For The 1st Time Since Eisenhower," and I blatantly stole the format and applied it to Johnson County.

With Dubuque flipping red in 2016, and staying flipped this time, Johnson County is the place with the longest consecutive Democratic presidential streak in Iowa. Joe Biden's local record setting win extended that string to 15 in a row, dating back to LBJ in 1964. Yes, despite some Irish Catholic roots here, JFK was the last Democrat to lose Johnson County. Nixon won here while losing the nation, and then lost here while winning the nation.

Four years ago, even though Hillary Clinton's numbers dipped only slightly from Barack Obama's 2012 totals, there were a lot of counter-trends by precincts - from a 20 point swing to the Democrats in north Coralville's precinct 6 to a 30 point shift to Trump in Oxford - that coincidentally balanced out.

This year, the big picture totals change more - but as we'll see the trends changed less.

Johnson County 2020 2020% 2016 2016% Vote Diff % Diff
Trump 22925 27.34% 21044 27.35% 1,881 -0.01%
Biden/Clinton 59177 70.57% 50200 65.25% 8,977 5.33%
Green 213 0.25% 878 1.14% -665 -0.89%
Libertarian 964 1.15% 2758 3.58% -1,794 -2.43%
Other 572 0.68% 2060 2.68% -1,488 -2.00%
Total 84,198   77,476   6,722  
Net shift from Trump -7096 (-5.34%)

I shouldn't have promised a remake of that post because this cycle, things don't stand out as much. In fact, what stands out is that Donald Trump's Johnson County percentage stayed nearly identical - 27.35 last time, 27.34 this year. Trump was already about as low as a Republican can get; the only one ever to do worse here, by about 0.2%, was Poppy Bush in the Ross Perot 1992 cycle.

The over-simplified version of the numbers that I offered in part one was that roughly 3/4 of the Johnson County third party vote shifted to Biden. There's some variation by precinct, and there were no doubt some Trump to Biden changes that were counterbalanced by some Third Party to Trump. But I feel like I'm reaching harder for less significant differences than four years ago. 2020 feels more like it's consolidating the 2016 pattern, with the third party shift explaining most of the difference.

Four years ago I broke Johnson County up into nine parts - Coralville, North Liberty and Tiffin, two rural sections, and five parts of Iowa City. So rather than look at every single precinct as I did in 2016, we'll just look at the nine parts. We'll start with the two parts of Iowa City that people think of when they think "Iowa City."

Campus and Downtown

(Iowa City precincts 3, 5, 11, 13, 19, 20)

Precincts 3 and 5 are dorm-dominated; 3 also has a chunk of neighborhood and an apartment chunk of mostly med students. 19 is almost entirely student apartments. 11 and 20 are mainly student apartments though 11 has a chunk of working class neighborhood and 20 has a couple senior buildings. Those are the five traditional "student" precincts. 13 has trended student since the construction of the Hawks Ridge apartment complex. Placing 13 here felt a little off in 2016, but now they're following the student pattern more closely.

Campus Area 2020 2020% 2016 2016% Vote Diff % Diff
Trump 1,661 21.66% 2,330 24.48% -669 -2.82%
Biden/Clinton 5,824 75.94% 6,379 67.01% -555 8.93%
Green 34 0.44% 143 1.50% -109 -1.06%
Libertarian 93 1.21% 464 4.87% -371 -3.66%
Other 57 0.74% 203 2.13% -146 -1.39%
Total 7,681   9,687   -2,006  
Net shift from Trump -114 (-11.75%)

The biggest thing we see here is the COVID related drop in overall turnout. Some students simply aren't here - they're remoting into class from Back Home or they're taking a gap year. And with the big push for mailed ballots, some were sending ballots Back Home rather than voting here. There's also the voter ID factor, as the student population is the least likely to have the right ID materials (that's a feature of the voter ID law, not a bug).

Everyone lost votes here but Trump lost the most. We saw big percentage shifts to Biden in precinct 3, the west side dorms, where Clinton underperformed last time, and in the downtown apartments of precinct 19 which saw some of the highest third party totals in the county four years ago. Both those precincts also saw stronger Trump declines than the rest of campus, where his share stayed about the same.

The exception to the turnout decline is precinct 11, which has seen a lot of new large apartment buildings go up in the last four years.

As I so often note, it's not undergrads that make Iowa City, or any other college town, a liberal island of blue. Undergrads still tend to follow parental political cues. No, it's grad students and faculty and staff who make college towns liberal, and they live in...

The People's Republic 

(Iowa City precincts 17, 18, 21)

The three precincts north and east of downtown are historically the most Democratic in the county. It barely even makes sense to make a walking list, because you'll get a Democrat at every door. This is as blue as it gets outside of majority-minority areas of major cities.

In 2000, Ralph Nader edged George W. Bush for second place in north side precinct 21, and 21 usually fights with Longfellow neighborhood 18 for bragging rights. Precinct 17 usually has a slightly lower percentage but has the biggest Democratic vote totals. 

Peoples Republic 2020 2020% 2016 2016% Vote Diff % Diff
Trump 584 11.24% 677 12.59% -93 -1.35%
Biden/Clinton 4,513 86.87% 4,325 80.45% 188 6.42%
Green 26 0.50% 116 2.16% -90 -1.66%
Libertarian 44 0.85% 130 2.42% -86 -1.57%
Other 28 0.54% 128 2.38% -100 -1.84%
Total 5,207   5,657   -450  
Net shift from Trump -281 (-7.77%)

There wasn't much room for Trump to drop here, though he did lose a couple points in 17 and 18, dropping below 9% and losing by a ten to one margin in precinct 18 . Trump actually GAINS a point in 21 - though Biden more than makes it up with the shift from the third parties. These precincts include some student population, which explains turnout being slightly down from 2016. 

The South/Southeast side

(Iowa City precincts 10, 12, 14, 15; Scott and West Lucas)

Iowa City's southeast side is an odd mix: trailer courts and big non-student working class apartments, interlaced with empty nesters who are not happy about Those People From Chicago. Iowa City, especially this area, has seen a noticeable black in-migration in the past 20 years, and also has a growing Hispanic population centered in these precincts. Included for demographic sake are two trailer-dominated "rural" precincts, Scott and West Lucas townships.

That demographic combination is less of a fit this year, as the trailer court precinct hold about steady or even shift slightly to the Working Class Tory phenomenon that is Donald Trump.  

South/Southeast 2020 2020% 2016 2016% Vote Diff % Diff
Trump 1,740 22.64% 1,481 21.76% 259 0.88%
Biden/Clinton 5,779 75.19% 4,816 70.75% 963 4.44%
Green 24 0.31% 117 1.72% -93 -1.41%
Libertarian 94 1.22% 210 3.09% -116 -1.86%
Other 49 0.64% 183 2.69% -134 -2.05%
Total 7,721   6,857   864  
Net shift from Trump -704 (-3.56%)

Here we see again the shift away from the third parties, but Biden gains less here than he did in midtown. Biden does gain a bit more in precincts 14 and 15, impressive since there wasn't much TO gain in 14, yet somehow he goes up to 85% from Clinton's 77.

About half of the turnout jump is from precinct 15, an artifact of the "redevelopment" of a large apartment complex. Long called Lakeside, and later rebranded a couple times, finally as Rose Oaks, it was historically a low income area. The whole complex was empty during the 2016 cycle as developers renovated. It reopened in 2017, gentrified and re-named The Quarters, and marketed to students.  Trivia: Precinct 15 dropped from the highest Green Party share in the county in 2016 to literally zero Green votes this year.

East Side

(Iowa City precincts 1, 6, 16, 22, 23, 24)

Now we're starting to get into "townie" Iowa City. There are apartments here and there but most of these voters are homeowners in long-established neighborhoods. Precinct 6 has large senior complexes. Precinct 22 has some new homes in the Peninsula neighborhood and the only population of students here, at the Mayflower dorm.

These voters are not usually left wing in local elections, but are solidly Democratic at the top of the ticket.

East Side 2020 2020% 2016 2016% Vote Diff % Diff
Trump 2,391 19.90% 2,288 20.70% 103 -0.81%
Biden/Clinton 9,411 78.31% 8,039 72.74% 1,372 5.56%
Green 35 0.29% 120 1.09% -85 -0.79%
Libertarian 92 0.77% 288 2.61% -196 -1.84%
Other 89 0.74% 316 2.86% -227 -2.12%
Total 12,076   11,155   921  
Net shift from Trump -1269 (-6.37%)

The big shift here happened from 2012 to 2016, and this cycle the simplified "third party to Democrats" explanation covers most of the story. The one standout is precinct 22, with its student influence leading both to a turnout drop and a 10% jump for Biden.

Most of the turnout gain is population growth in precinct 24, which covers most of the city east of Scott Boulevard. 

West Side

(Iowa City precincts 2, 4, 7, 8, 9; University Heights)

There's a lot of similarity to the east side here, with Kennedy Parkway in precinct 7 taking the place of Windsor Ridge and Oaknoll in precinct 2 more than taking the place of the senior complexes in precinct 6. Precinct 4 is mostly the doctor/professor dominated very old neighborhood, Manville Heights; the enclaved speed trap University Heights has a similar feel.

But there's a few wild cards here. Precinct 4 also has a chunk of Frat Row, and there's a low income area split between 7 and 9 that includes a large and politically active Sudanese community.

West Side 2020 2020% 2016 2016% Vote Diff % Diff
Trump 1826 19.13% 1801 20.28% 25 -1.15%
Biden/Clinton 7524 78.83% 6467 72.82% 1,057 6.02%
Green 23 0.24% 87 0.98% -64 -0.74%
Libertarian 105 1.10% 286 3.22% -181 -2.12%
Other 66 0.69% 240 2.70% -174 -2.01%
Total 9601   8952   649  
Net shift from Trump -1032 (-7.16%)

Again, not much shift here and what shift there was is mainly third party to Biden. Turnout was up the most in precincts 7 and 8 where there's still some new development, and the swing to Biden was strongest in University Heights. 


(Coralville precincts 1-7; Penn township)

Demographically there's really two Coralvilles. South Coralville (precinct 1, 4, and 5) is mostly older homes and apartments. North Coralville (precincts 2, 6, 7 and the demographically similar Penn Township) has bigger and newer homes and more money. Precinct 3 doesn't quite fit either; it's dominated by the Coral Court apartment complex and the Western Hills trailer court (where registration has been in decline).

Coralville 2020 2020% 2016 2016% Vote Diff % Diff
Trump 3443 24.77% 3,048 25.75% 395 -0.99%
Biden/Clinton 10174 73.19% 7,927 66.98% 2,247 6.21%
Green 29 0.21% 105 0.88% -76 -0.67%
Libertarian 160 1.15% 409 3.46% -249 -2.30%
Other 95 0.68% 346 2.92% -251 -2.24%
Total 13977   11,935   2,042  
Net shift from Trump -1852 (-7.20%)

The biggest shift here is in Coralville 6, which was a little more Hillary skeptical in 2016 but turned away from Trump this time. There was also a turnout jump in Coralville 1 due to new apartments.

North Liberty and Tiffin

(North Liberty precincts 1-6; Clear Creek/Tiffin precinct)

This is some of the fastest growing turf in the state (and North Liberty finally got its HyVee during this four year cycle... though technically it's in Coralville.)

North Liberty/Tiffin 2020 2020% 2016 2016% Vote Diff % Diff
Trump 4,767 33.44% 3,684 32.84% 1,083 0.61%
Biden/Clinton 9,146 64.16% 6506 57.99% 2,640 6.17%
Green 22 0.15% 104 0.93% -82 -0.77%
Libertarian 224 1.57% 569 5.07% -345 -3.50%
Other 95 0.67% 356 3.17% -261 -2.51%
Total 14,292   11284   3,008  
Net shift from Trump -1557 (-5.57%)

North Liberty 3, with a lot of new high end development, topped 11 percent 3rd party in 2016, and that gave them more room for a 8.7% swing to Biden. North Liberty 6, the rapidly developing west side of town, also saw nearly a 9 point swing to Biden. But Tiffin, growing even faster, only saw about a 5 point shift. Trump's actual share stayed very steady in these precincts, with the shift coming entirely out of the third parties. 

Trivia: North Liberty 6 and Tiffin are now two of the three largest (by registration) precincts in the county. The other is Iowa City 24. None of that matters after next year, when we tear up the precinct map and start over.

Trump did even better at holding his own in the last two parts of the county.

The Greater Solon Metropolitan Area

(Big Grove, Cedar, Graham, Jefferson and Newport townships; cities of Shueyville, Swisher and Solon)

Even the most casual local observers have seen a GOP trend in northeast Johnson County. Retiring sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek only pulled 53% in the Johnson County part of House 73, not nearly enough to offset Bobby Kaufmann's big win in the rest of the district. (Swisher and Shueyville are in Amy Nielsen's House 77, not 73.)

Solon Area 2020 2020% 2016 2016% Vote Diff % Diff
Trump 4,160 47.21% 3,638 46.15% 522 1.06%
Biden/Clinton 4,507 51.15% 3,759 47.68% 748 3.47%
Green 11 0.12% 48 0.61% -37 -0.48%
Libertarian 85 0.96% 242 3.07% -157 -2.11%
Other 48 0.54% 196 2.49% -148 -1.94%
Total 8,849   7,933   916  
Net shift from Trump -226 (-2.40%)

Not as much shift away from Trump here, though Jefferson West (the Swisher precinct) flipped back from Trump in `16 to a narrow 5 vote Biden win. Trump carried Big Grove, Cedar, and Jefferson East (Shueyville), and Biden won the city of Solon, Newport, and by a larger margin Graham township, which has kept its ancestral Democratic voting pattern while the rest of the area has shifted. Graham (the smallest precinct in the county) is also the only precinct here to see very little turnout growth.

Rural Rural Johnson County

(Fremont, Hardin, Liberty, Lincoln, Oxford Pleasant Valley, Sharon, Union, and Washington townships; cites of Hills, Lone Tree, Oxford)

The North Corridor precincts we just looked at are mostly suburban, but the final chunk of the county is where the farms and true small towns are. Sharon and Washington townships have always voted like pieces of GOP leaning Washington County that were accidentally surveyed into the wrong county. Now, the rest of the precincts here are following those patterns. Most of the 11 precincts where Republican supervisor candidate Phil Hemingway led the three incumbent Democrats are here.

RURAL rural 2020 2020% 2016 2016% Vote Diff % Diff
Trump 2,353 49.30% 2,097 48.00% 256 1.30%
Biden/Clinton 2,299 48.17% 1,982 45.37% 317 2.80%
Green 9 0.19% 38 0.87% -29 -0.68%
Libertarian 67 1.40% 160 3.66% -93 -2.26%
Other 45 0.94% 92 2.11% -47 -1.16%
Total 4,794   4,411   383  

Net shift from Trump -61 (-1.50%) 

Last cycle we saw a massive 17 point shift from Obama to Trump here. That appears to be permanent as Biden only gained back 1.5%.  Oxford, which saw the biggest shift in the county last time (a net 30% swing to Trump) swung narrowly back to the blue column this time, though Obama's 63% from 2012 is only a dim memory.

Trump holds steady and even gains slightly here, while Biden gains just a little more. The only place where Trump sees a significant dip is Union township, which while still mostly Rural rural is close enough in to attract some subdivisions and commuters.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Johnson County Election Numbers, Part One

Joe Biden at the Hamburg Inn, 2007

For the second cycle in a row, election season in Johnson County is going into overtime. Two years ago it was the sudden death of supervisor Kurt Friese and the special election of Royceann Porter, and this year it's a near-certain recount in the de facto tied 2nd Congressional District race. 

This is part one of at least a two-parter; I'll be re-writing this deep-deep number cruncher next. For now, let's take a big picture look. 

I've been struggling with profoundly mixed feelings the past week - joy of course for Joe Biden's victory and for our local success. All sorts of records were smashed - overall turnout over 84,000, voter registration topping 100,000 for the first time, and Biden breaking the 70% barrier that Obama just barely missed. The joy and excitement and determination of those tens of thousands of voters lined up at our drive-thru voting and the countless buckets of ballots I emptied from the drop boxes - those things are built like tanks - made me proud of my community and proud of my career. 

But all of that is tempered by shock and sadness for our state results: the Senate race that was never supposed to be close, but for a few weeks was at center stage; the congressional race that at the moment is just beyond our reach - and worst of all, the strong re-endorsement by Iowans of the four years of cruelty - I'm lumping volumes into that one word - by Donald Trump, the least suited man ever to hold The Job. 

Well, I guess at least they can't just blame Hillary anymore, huh.

We couldn't campaign the way Democrats usually campaign. I think no doorknocking was the right and responsible thing in terms of public health and in terms of messaging. Trump never took COVID seriously, not even after he got it himself, and we needed to signal that we did. I wouldn't change that decision.

But it was a no-win either way. It's an unfortunate reality that many of the rural voters we couldn't reach, who are already mad that "Democrats never show up"... 

(I have a whole `nother post about that in my head which I may or may not ever post)

...many of the rural voters we couldn't reach, who are already mad that "Democrats never show up," largely think that COVID is Fake News. So we got no credit for the responsibility, we lost our most effective communication tools, and we got blamed Yet Again for Not Showing Up.


This map looks familiar.

There was one issue in this election, that issue was Trump (his mis-handling of COVID was a sidebar to that story), and it was nearly impossible for a candidate in a down ballot race to break through that noise. Voters, especially new or infrequent voters, are reluctant to make marks in races they know little about. That led to some under-voting. Not a lot more than in previous years, but enough to make a difference.

In Johnson County, Theresa Greenfield ran 2114 votes behind Biden, and Rita Hart was 3053 behind Biden. Some of that was anti-Trump voters who crossed back to the GOP down-ballot. Trump ran 848 votes behind Joni Ernst and 1174 behind Miller-Meeks. So let's say as a rough measure about 1000 Republicans, about 5% of their voters, were Never Trump.

But the most haunting numbers of the whole election, in light of the 40 vote margin as I write, are the 3907 under votes in the congressional race. That share was highest in the student precincts and in trailer court dominated West Lucas.

But it's wrong to blame undervoting in student precincts - some are already doing that - for the apparent loss, when Johnson County did more for the Democratic ticket than anyone else in the district or state. Johnson County was the top county in the state by 13 to 14 points across the board in all of the top of the ticket races. That same pattern and that same exact margin has been a pattern since the 2014 cycle. There used to be a little more variation, and we used to be more like five or six points ahead of the next best, but ever since 2014 it's been number one in every race and it's been in the ballpark of 13 to 15%.

Biden's 70.57% narrowly breaks the Johnson County all time presidential record set by Barack Obama in 2008 (69.91%), but Biden didn't hit 60 anywhere else. The closest was 57.19% in Story County, which in an era where education and partisanship are tightly linked seems to be emerging as the state's #2 Democratic county. 

Anybody else wonder if, in the context of a rural dominated Love The Hawkeyes And Cyclones Hate The Universities state, that the association of the Democrats with the college towns is part of the problem?

I'll dig into the long version of the Johnson County presidential numbers in a part two post. The short version is that the third party vote collapsed and nearly all of the switches were to the Democrats. The third parties, and nearly 1000 write ins, jumped to 7.4% in 2016, but collapsed to 2.1% this year.

Now, obviously, not every erstwhile Libertarian or Green switched to Joe this time, and there were no doubt some Republicans with regrets who left Trump this time. But remarkably, Trump's Johnson County percentage stayed nearly identical - 27.35 last time, 27.34 this year. So the simplistic "third parties switched to D"  works well enough to cover the math.

There's a lot of reasons for that. We saw a similar but stronger version of it from 2000 to 2004, when the Ralph Nader vote was literally decimated. Without getting into the Holy War of "vote shaming," razor close elections and dramatic unpleasant consequences do that to third party votes. 

Some other stuff happened too. We saw greater cooperation between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden than we saw between Sanders and Clinton. Still too little too late for me, but leaving that aside and looking at numbers, Sanders drew a lot of the write ins in 2016 and we only got about 1/4 as many write-ins this year.

Also, the third party candidates on the ballot were less well known than in past years. The exception is Kanye West, whose ego and mental health were cynically exploited but who willingly went along with it. In the end no one was fooled and his numbers were insignificant.

Yo Kanye, I'm really happy for you, Imma let you finish, but you had one of the worst campaigns of ALL TIME.

As for candidates that actually drew significant numbers:

In 2016, both Jill Stein and Gary Johnson were on their second consecutive campaigns, and both Johnson and his running mate were former (Republican) governors. In contrast, both the Libertarians and Greens nominated little known party activists this year. Quick, without Googling, name them.

And there wasn't a candidate in the Never Trump mainstream conservative niche that Evan McMullin filled four years ago. Based on the results from Utah, the one state where McMullin ran strong in 2016, his supporters split about evenly between Trump and Biden.

The voting process itself showed as intense a polarization in Johnson County as it did elsewhere. Donald Trump actually won the Election Day vote in Johnson County, 51-45%. So many Democrats voted early that there were hardly any left by Election Day, and Republicans made a point of waiting. Biden, meanwhile, carried the early vote by an incredible 80-18%.  Overall, 72.4% of the county's votes were cast before Election Day, just a little below the record pace set in the primary (before the post office scare put some people off mailed ballots - and as a side note our local post office did a fantastic job).

On the strictly local level, in the one seriously contested race in House 73 retiring sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek took on a tough mission and came up short. The Solon area continued its red shift as Pulkrabek's 435 vote edge out of Johnson was not enough to overcome Bobby Kaufmann's big margins in the Cedar and Muscatine county parts of the district. Kaufmann actually carried the city of Solon and surrounding Cedar and Big Grove townships, while Pulkrabek prevailed in the southern part of the Johnson County turf. Looks like redistricting (maybe) is the only way we'll get Kaufmann out of the county. 

It's a sad coda to Pulkrabek's career but at least there's the consolation of seeing his endorsed successor Brad Kunkel elected, a win Kunkel clinched in the June Democratic primary (he also got enough June write-ins that he could have claimed the Republican nomination if he had wanted). Trivia: Kunkel sets a new record for the most votes ever won by anyone in Johnson County, while Biden sets the new high water mark for a contested race.

The supervisor race was contested, sort of, with Republican Phil Hemingway arguing for the third time that he could best represent "rural interests." That argument let him finish first ahead of the three Democrats in 11 rural precincts, but there's a lot more votes in town and Hemingway was 19,000 votes behind the third Democrat, Porter.

That old "farm vote" that dominated the Supervisors for a century is now more or less a protest vote, a reflection of the ever increasing rural-urban split in America. There just aren't enough farm votes in this urban academic county to win, swing, or even be much influence except under solar-eclipse-rare circumstances like the March 2013 special election. With the spikes in June turnout we saw this year and in 2018, the farm vote isn't even enough to swing a primary, which is how Farm Bureau type conservative Democrats dominated the Board up to the 1990s.

Porter was about 3000 votes behind the second place Democrat, Rod Sullivan, and he was about 2500 behind the ticket leader, Lisa Green-Douglass. That's a shift in order from the primary where Porter was second and Sullivan third, but that only matters for bragging rights.

Porter did finish first in four precincts - the southeast side's precinct 15, the very liberal 18 and 21, and in Coralville 5. Sullivan carried eight, with no obvious pattern, and Green-Douglass topped the rest.

We're talking about narrow differences in many cases here. But it's hard not to notice Porter running just a little behind the white colleagues in most if not all places. Not so much in the rural places Hemingway won, where the pattern was Phil well ahead of the three Democrats in what looked like bullet voting. It was just 50 votes here, 100 votes there, not unlike Dierdre DeJear running just a little behind the rest of the ticket in 2018.

Anyway, a win is a win is a win for the three Democrats. Sullivan becomes just the second five-term supervisor in memory, joining Sally Stutsman (who left for the legislature two years into her last term). Hemingway is now 1-5 lifetime in elections and 0-3 for the Supervisors. But maybe he can try a fourth time - seems to have worked* for Mariannette Miller-Meeks.