Iowa’s ‘generous’ rules give voters unique power before Election Day

Loras College Poll 10.18.16 from LorasCollege Duhawks on Vimeo.

DUBUQUE, Iowa – In the last presidential election, more than four in 10 ballots in Iowa were cast sometime other than Election Day. Compared to many other states, Iowa has generous early voting provisions, allowing not only no-excuse absentee voting but also in-person early voting where a voter goes into a specially designated location to cast their vote in advance of Election Day. The two provisions provide unique power to the state’s early voters.

“Campaigns and political parties have adapted to this new reality of early voting,” said Christopher Budzisz, Ph.D., associate professor of politics and director of the Loras College Poll.  “For campaigns, getting someone to vote early allows them to create a baseline level of support going into Election Day.  Early voting also provides a way of chasing individual votes by tracking individuals who request an absentee ballot, follow whether a ballot is returned, and then follow up with people in advance before Election Day persuading those haven’t voted.”

In Iowa, Democrats have traditionally held the upper-hand in absentee voting. But this year looks different in some ways than the last presidential election. And that difference might be important in the battle for Iowa’s six electoral votes.

Iowa has seen a 26 percent decrease in absentee ballots requested and a 46 percent decrease in absentee ballots returned compared to 2012, according to data provided by the Iowa Secretary of State.

“The volatile nature of the presidential race with the daily barrage of negative headlines, coupled with the high unfavorable ratings of the candidates may mean that voters are delaying their decision,” Budzisz said. “And, more people may be opting to vote early in-person or waiting to vote until November and forgo an absentee ballot. But, it’s possible that this is a sign of potential lower turnout for some segments of voters.”

By the numbers, there were 409,873 requests for absentee ballots in 2012 compared to 302,042 as of Oct. 12. Of the 409,873 ballots in 2012, 54 percent were returned compared to 39 percent, or 117,754 ballots, as of Oct. 12.

By party, 53 percent of the absentee ballots returned in 2012 were by Democrats compared to 28 percent Republican. Nineteen percent of the returned ballots were returned by those indicating no party.  As of Oct. 12, the percentages were 54 percent, 28 percent and 18 percent respectively.

“The decrease in absentee balloting thus far might not be a good sign for Hillary Clinton here in Iowa, as Democrats have usually benefited more from absentee voting than Republicans,” Budzisz said. “But campaigns are well aware of the impact of early voting in Iowa, so I suspect that if mobilization efforts need to adapt, they will.”

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About the Loras College Poll
The Loras College Poll is conducted several times a year, in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois.  Loras College faculty and student researchers work as part of the survey research team to develop poll questions, analyze and interpret data, and assist with sharing the final results with local, regional and national media.

About Loras College
Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. Loras is ranked 11th out of the Top 100 baccalaureate colleges, according to the 2016 Washington Monthly College Rankings and the 11th Best Regional College, according to Midwest U.S. News Best Colleges.


Dr. Christopher Budzisz, Associate Professor of Politics
Office: 563.588.7279

Thomas Jensen, Public Relations Manager
Office: 563.588.7179 | Cell: 919.930.1997

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