It’s crunch time for Democrats’ and Republicans’ early vote efforts in Iowa. With just two and a half weeks left until Election Day, campaigns are scrambling to pick up absentee ballots and turn voters out to early voting locations. There’s plenty of numbers to pore over, so let’s get right into it.

First off, a check on the statewide numbers of absentee requests compared to this time in 2012:

Requests
Party Today Then % Diff
Democrat 182,064 217,964 84%
Republican 150,169 147,112 102%
No Party 88,673 112,131 79%

And now a look at the statewide numbers of who has already voted compared to this time in 2012:

Voted
Party Today Then % Diff
Democrat 114,737 147,234 78%
Republican 75,782 92,072 82%
No Party 44,732 61,833 72%

Democrats still lag their 2012 numbers, but they’ve made up significant ground from their poor early data in September that worried activists. It has always been unlikely that Democrats will get the same number of early votes as they did when Barack Obama was on the ticket. They don’t need to either, considering Obama won Iowa by six points in 2012. They just have to get close. And 84% is getting pretty close. If they bump that up to around 90%, Hillary Clinton will be well within striking range of carrying Iowa.

Also interesting is how Democrats have slowly but steadily increased their percent over 2012 day by day. Republicans’ numbers have jumped around, largely due to the bulk of their absentee efforts coming from mailers. While Republicans get a big boost every time an absentee mailer drops, Democrats have built their numbers through a huge field team and in-person early voting sites that slowly accumulate every day. Republicans and their field team and volunteers are still doing a great job in bringing in numbers better than their 2012 results, especially in a year where voter frustration is high. And they’re closing the gap between them and Democrats.

But the other thing to watch is the absentee return rate:

Return Rate
Party Today Then Diff
Democrat 63% 68% -5%
Republican 50% 63% -12%
No Party 50% 55% -5%

Because of both parties’ decisions to start their absentee efforts later, both lag their 2012 return rates. Democrats are likely better because they’re pushing lots of in-person voting (which has a return rate of 100%!). Republicans have 74,387 ballots still out in the field, while Democrats have 67,327 unreturned. Both sides have a lot of work to do in the final weeks.

Now let’s have some fun by looking at how each individual county is doing, which I’m sure will be interesting to local activists on both sides. The Secretary of State’s office recently began listing the early vote data out by counties.

Here’s the top 15 counties where Democrats have the largest raw number lead in absentee requests (At the end of the post I’ll list out every single county):

County Dem Req GOP Req NP Req Dem Lead
Polk  32,321  18,079  9,863  14,242
Johnson  13,187  3,672  3,927  9,515
Linn  13,685  8,039  7,160  5,646
Dubuque  8,467  4,177  2,798  4,290
Black Hawk  8,770  5,341  3,891  3,429
Scott  10,865  7,518  6,082  3,347
Story  6,976  3,958  3,924  3,018
Lee  2,947  1,120  1,072  1,827
Des Moines  3,432  1,638  1,295  1,794
Clinton  3,339  2,088  2,082  1,251
Jasper  2,745  1,655  1,106  1,090
Wapello  1,954  1,253  668  701
Jackson  1,483  838  803  645
Jefferson  1,250  656  309  594
Webster  2,023  1,435  912  588

As one would expect, Democrats hold large early vote leads in the most-populous counties, as well as their liberal stronghold of Johnson County.

Here’s the top 15 counties for Republican early vote leads:

County Dem Req GOP Req NP Req Dem Lead
Sioux  421  3,643  452 -3,222
Plymouth  695  1,958  644 -1,263
Dallas  4,193  5,293  2,570 -1,100
Mahaska  762  1,812  559 -1,050
Marion  1,728  2,685  1,120 -957
Lyon  128  1,060  134 -932
O’Brien  255  1,166  209 -911
Dickinson  674  1,495  699 -821
Pottawattamie  5,039  5,706  2,895 -667
Mills  465  1,130  280 -665
Page  398  1,053  236 -655
Butler  401  1,028  276 -627
Clay  513  1,125  379 -612
Cass  379  937  260 -558
Delaware  592  1,126  570 -534

The conservative stronghold of Northwest Iowa leads the way with Republican advantages, while Dallas County gives the GOP a big boost as well.

That’s all interesting, but it largely tracks with which counties already hold a big registration advantage. So let’s take a look at what percent of the registered voters in each county are signed up for absentees. First, the top 15 for Democrats:

County Dem Registered Dem Request Dem %
Winneshiek 4080 1594 39.1%
Marshall 7210 2617 36.3%
Story 19359 6976 36.0%
Warren 9681 3480 35.9%
Dallas 12068 4193 34.7%
Woodbury 17945 6112 34.1%
Floyd 3007 1017 33.8%
Boone 5300 1792 33.8%
Clinton 10125 3339 33.0%
Bremer 3939 1296 32.9%
Pottawattamie 15406 5039 32.7%
Dubuque 25891 8467 32.7%
Mitchell 1686 551 32.7%
Des Moines 10664 3432 32.2%
Marion 5374 1728 32.2%

The Northeast county of Winneshiek, home to Decorah, leads the state for Democrats by a considerable margin. Many of the counties around the Des Moines metro are near the top as well. Western Iowa’s population centers are well-represented with both Woodbury and Pottawattamie in the top 15. Several counties with key legislative races, including Winneshiek, Marshall, Floyd, Bremer and Mitchell are up high as well. Story County is doing particularly well without any major legislative contest to help.

Now here’s the Republicans:

County GOP Registered GOP Request GOP %
Woodbury 20285 5894 29.1%
Marshall 7586 2135 28.1%
Marion 9545 2685 28.1%
Winneshiek 4451 1245 28.0%
Union 2754 769 27.9%
Shelby 3586 1000 27.9%
Muscatine 8158 2247 27.5%
Dickinson 5430 1495 27.5%
Dallas 19281 5293 27.5%
Pottawattamie 20923 5706 27.3%
Clinton 7716 2088 27.1%
Adams 975 261 26.8%
Mahaska 6865 1812 26.4%
Dubuque 15868 4177 26.3%
Jackson 3186 838 26.3%

Many Western Iowa counties make the list here, as well as several in important legislative districts as well, like Marshall, Winneshiek, Muscatine and Jackson.

But how does this all compare to 2012? Some counties just naturally have a higher percentage of people go to the polls, especially in more rural counties. And a 5,000-vote advantage in a Democratic county is nice, but not if Democrats typically get a 8,000-vote lead out of it.

The Secretary of State’s office doesn’t list out by county where the 2012 early vote was on each day in 2012, but we can look at the final early vote number for each party. By sifting through the big 2012 statistics report, we can compare how many Democrats and Republicans voted absentee in 2012 versus how many have signed up for an absentee now (this isn’t a perfect comparison because not all absentees will be returned).

Here’s the top 15 counties for Democrats:

County Dem Req Ds Abs in 12 D % Abs in 12
Mitchell 551 669 82%
Winneshiek 1594 1974 81%
Story 6976 8769 80%
Dallas 4193 5296 79%
Worth 306 388 79%
Muscatine 2528 3243 78%
Sioux 421 569 74%
Pottawattamie 5039 6846 74%
Louisa 429 584 73%
Floyd 1017 1439 71%
Polk 32321 45871 70%
Dubuque 8467 12060 70%
Bremer 1296 1862 70%
Winnebago 344 499 69%
Warren 3480 5068 69%

Many Northern Iowa counties round out this list, several of which are in the Pat Ritter or Mary Jo Wilhelm districts. Story, Dallas, Pottawattamie, Polk and Dubuque are the big counties doing well compared to their 2012 numbers (Woodbury was #16, good as well). The Story County Democrats and local staff there in particular are doing something very, very right this year. Polk appeared to be lacking early on based on the legislative numbers, but they’ve really picked up their game in recent weeks. Interestingly, two Northwest counties, Sioux and Louisa, are doing well on this metric as well.

As for those not in the top 15 – Linn County sits at #36 on the list, lower than you might like for such an important county, but they also lost over a week of field work due to the flood. Most of those at the bottom of the list are small, rural counties with few competitive races in them (see the bottom of this post for the full list). Wapello and Cerro Gordo counties are in the bottom 20. Cerro Gordo in particular is lacking in the early vote on a number of metrics.

Now here’s the Republicans:

County GOP Req Rs Abs in 12 R % Abs in 12
Worth 373 408 91%
O’Brien 1166 1356 86%
Jackson 838 985 85%
Louisa 505 606 83%
Chickasaw 617 744 83%
Sioux 3643 4408 83%
Clayton 863 1058 82%
Woodbury 5894 7259 81%
Page 1053 1312 80%
Audubon 449 563 80%
Ringgold 356 448 79%
Delaware 1126 1433 79%
Pottawattamie 5706 7262 79%
Dubuque 4177 5353 78%
Benton 1128 1455 78%

You can tell Republicans have been doing a lot of work in Mary Jo Wilhelm’s district, with Worth and Chickasaw near the top of the list. They also have impressive numbers for legislative battlegrounds in Jackson, Pottawattamie, Clayton and Dubuque counties.

However, outside of Pottawattamie and Dubuque, none of the state’s largest counties are in the top tier for Republicans. Polk is down at #53 for Republicans, Linn is at #73 and – amazingly – Scott is at #89. That’s typically one of their best-organized counties in the state. Republicans may not win these counties, but there’s still a lot of votes for them there. A larger field team in the state’s largest counties should have counteracted this.

You can download and play around with the entire spreadsheet I worked off of here. Below is the full list sorted by 2012 percentages. First, the Democrats:

County Dem Req Ds Abs in 12 D % Abs in 12
Mitchell 551 669 82%
Winneshiek 1594 1974 81%
Story 6976 8769 80%
Dallas 4193 5296 79%
Worth 306 388 79%
Muscatine 2528 3243 78%
Sioux 421 569 74%
Pottawattamie 5039 6846 74%
Louisa 429 584 73%
Floyd 1017 1439 71%
Polk 32321 45871 70%
Dubuque 8467 12060 70%
Bremer 1296 1862 70%
Winnebago 344 499 69%
Warren 3480 5068 69%
Woodbury 6112 8919 69%
Jasper 2745 4054 68%
Allamakee 605 912 66%
Jackson 1483 2241 66%
Marshall 2617 3982 66%
Osceola 92 140 66%
Clayton 830 1266 66%
Black Hawk 8770 13423 65%
Butler 401 614 65%
Wright 465 712 65%
Grundy 357 547 65%
Mills 465 713 65%
Cass 379 582 65%
Des Moines 3432 5280 65%
Henry 825 1274 65%
Lee 2947 4564 65%
Fayette 1051 1642 64%
Tama 722 1128 64%
Howard 448 702 64%
Ringgold 202 317 64%
Linn 13685 21532 64%
Buchanan 1005 1596 63%
Marion 1728 2760 63%
Chickasaw 806 1291 62%
Boone 1792 2874 62%
Carroll 1036 1664 62%
Scott 10865 17603 62%
Calhoun 358 581 62%
Page 398 652 61%
O’Brien 255 418 61%
Hancock 275 452 61%
Appanoose 660 1087 61%
Clinton 3339 5586 60%
Buena Vista 583 977 60%
Dickinson 674 1144 59%
Webster 2023 3435 59%
Van Buren 152 259 59%
Franklin 295 503 59%
Madison 757 1296 58%
Jones 852 1464 58%
Poweshiek 1209 2112 57%
Guthrie 445 778 57%
Jefferson 1250 2188 57%
Johnson 13187 23098 57%
Washington 838 1474 57%
Hardin 766 1351 57%
Delaware 592 1049 56%
Monroe 395 701 56%
Montgomery 223 396 56%
Taylor 136 242 56%
Emmet 323 575 56%
Sac 219 392 56%
Benton 896 1612 56%
Hamilton 672 1218 55%
Lucas 370 672 55%
Iowa 610 1109 55%
Shelby 521 949 55%
Wayne 221 403 55%
Cedar 753 1377 55%
Adams 174 319 55%
Davis 360 660 55%
Union 516 949 54%
Cerro Gordo 2191 4050 54%
Kossuth 819 1515 54%
Harrison 419 780 54%
Adair 256 477 54%
Plymouth 695 1308 53%
Ida 153 290 53%
Pocahontas 257 490 52%
Wapello 1954 3739 52%
Monona 336 644 52%
Fremont 203 398 51%
Crawford 527 1041 51%
Clarke 373 746 50%
Cherokee 395 796 50%
Humboldt 301 610 49%
Lyon 128 262 49%
Clay 513 1094 47%
Audubon 246 529 47%
Mahaska 762 1672 46%
Keokuk 343 757 45%
Greene 367 811 45%
Palo Alto 455 1093 42%
Decatur 247 606 41%

And now the Republicans:

County GOP Req Rs Abs in 12 R % Abs in 12
Worth 373 408 91%
O’Brien 1166 1356 86%
Jackson 838 985 85%
Louisa 505 606 83%
Chickasaw 617 744 83%
Sioux 3643 4408 83%
Clayton 863 1058 82%
Woodbury 5894 7259 81%
Page 1053 1312 80%
Audubon 449 563 80%
Ringgold 356 448 79%
Delaware 1126 1433 79%
Pottawattamie 5706 7262 79%
Dubuque 4177 5353 78%
Benton 1128 1455 78%
Crawford 769 993 77%
Cedar 926 1196 77%
Calhoun 567 733 77%
Black Hawk 5341 6925 77%
Pocahontas 420 547 77%
Hancock 612 798 77%
Wapello 1253 1649 76%
Dallas 5293 6992 76%
Emmet 304 404 75%
Fayette 1033 1386 75%
Cherokee 824 1108 74%
Keokuk 439 592 74%
Osceola 437 590 74%
Guthrie 663 896 74%
Monona 384 521 74%
Ida 410 557 74%
Butler 1028 1398 74%
Muscatine 2247 3060 73%
Dickinson 1495 2055 73%
Des Moines 1638 2261 72%
Warren 3009 4161 72%
Harrison 679 939 72%
Tama 650 904 72%
Fremont 423 590 72%
Howard 304 430 71%
Grundy 814 1152 71%
Story 3958 5605 71%
Clinton 2088 2957 71%
Webster 1435 2035 71%
Marion 2685 3819 70%
Jasper 1655 2363 70%
Lee 1120 1602 70%
Clay 1125 1613 70%
Floyd 682 978 70%
Buchanan 769 1104 70%
Davis 342 496 69%
Humboldt 647 941 69%
Polk 18079 26319 69%
Winnebago 470 685 69%
Marshall 2135 3120 68%
Wright 809 1183 68%
Sac 560 819 68%
Mitchell 537 786 68%
Bremer 1215 1784 68%
Mills 1130 1660 68%
Appanoose 644 947 68%
Taylor 339 499 68%
Iowa 778 1147 68%
Madison 971 1437 68%
Plymouth 1958 2902 67%
Mahaska 1812 2687 67%
Cass 937 1392 67%
Decatur 310 461 67%
Jones 830 1235 67%
Hamilton 839 1256 67%
Montgomery 701 1052 67%
Shelby 1000 1508 66%
Linn 8039 12302 65%
Carroll 847 1302 65%
Monroe 383 594 64%
Adams 261 405 64%
Kossuth 803 1253 64%
Lucas 514 813 63%
Buena Vista 722 1148 63%
Franklin 621 989 63%
Greene 442 704 63%
Allamakee 916 1461 63%
Boone 1413 2277 62%
Cerro Gordo 1696 2741 62%
Poweshiek 914 1485 62%
Van Buren 321 522 61%
Union 769 1252 61%
Palo Alto 425 695 61%
Scott 7518 12317 61%
Lyon 1060 1757 60%
Wayne 286 476 60%
Winneshiek 1245 2074 60%
Washington 1224 2062 59%
Hardin 1110 1898 58%
Henry 1101 1932 57%
Clarke 369 651 57%
Adair 426 772 55%
Johnson 3672 7687 48%
Jefferson 656 1384 47%

 

by Pat Rynard
Posted 10/21/16

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