Government

State, county absentee voter turnout heavy among Democrats in Iowa

Valerie Smith, elections outreach coordinator for Linn County, sets up voting booths for early voting in special elections at the auditor’s office at the Jean Oxley Linn County Public Service Center in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, March 14, 2018.  (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Valerie Smith, elections outreach coordinator for Linn County, sets up voting booths for early voting in special elections at the auditor’s office at the Jean Oxley Linn County Public Service Center in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Early voting for the June 5 Primary closed with Democrat absentee ballots outnumbering Republicans by more than 2 to 1 statewide.

At the end of business Monday, Iowa Democrats had returned more than 35,000 absentee ballots compared with about 14,500 from Republicans and a little more than 200 from Libertarians, according to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

In Linn County, 2,272 absentee ballots had been returned by Democrats, according to Monday numbers filed by the Linn County Auditor's Office.

Republicans in Linn County had returned just shy of 400 ballots and Libertarians had returned 12 ballots, according to Linn County records.

According to numbers filed Sunday by the Johnson County Auditor's Office, more than 4,200 absentee ballots had been returned by Democrats. Republicans had returned 216 ballots and Libertarians had returned 13 ballots.

Becky Stonawski, deputy auditor for elections in Linn County, said last month a competitive field of Democrats — including state races such as a packed gubernatorial field or, more locally, the Linn County Board of Supervisors District 1 seat and Johnson County’s two at-large seats — has the party’s early voting numbers looking strong.

“I think what we’re seeing so far is not a big change in registration, but we are seeing a big change in turnout. We’re having a nice hefty turnout from the Democrats and a very low turnout from the Republicans,” Stonawski said.

On the flip side, Stonawski said a lack of many contested races on the Republican side is expected to hurt turnout for the GOP.

Former Cedar Rapids Mayor and one-time gubernatorial candidate Ron Corbett was expected to drive up GOP turnout in Linn County. But Corbett failed to raise enough signatures to make the ballot.

“We had planned for a much higher turnout from Republicans,” Stonawski said.

What’s more, in Iowa’s first year hosting third-party primaries, the Libertarian Party has put up a contested gubernatorial primary with Jake Porter and Marco Battaglia on the June 5 ballot.

“I think they are excited and hoping for some turnout,” Stonawski said.

In Johnson County, Auditor Travis Weipert said the local race for county supervisor — Democrat Pat Heiden is seeking to capture one of the seats held by incumbent candidates Mike Carberry or Janelle Rettig, who both are seeking re-election — should be enough to bring out Democrat voters.

With no Republicans running, the two top voter earners could run unopposed in the November election.

“Really, the supervisor race is going to be decided June 5. Unless the Libertarians or Republicans run anyone, that’s it.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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