On Tuesday, the Iowa Secretary of State reported that they had received over 455,000 absentee ballots for this election through Monday. That represents the strongest early voter turnout in a midterm election in Iowa history. There were over 530,000 absentee ballots that were requested. It is quite possible that many of those who had not returned their ballots through Monday would be dropping off their votes on Election Day or had already mailed them off prior to the postmark deadline of November 3rd.
Of the completed ballots received, Democrats are ahead of Republicans. The SOS reports that nearly 184,000 returned ballots are from registered Democrats compared to 175,670 from Republicans. The count for independents totaled 95,398. The total of absentee voters was a significant increase over the 2010 midterms, when a little more than 360,000 voters turned their ballots in early.
Of the absentee ballots remaining that had not been turned in by Monday, Democrats make up a larger base than Republicans. Roughly 33,000 Democrats had not turned in their ballots compared to 19,000 Republicans and 23,000 independents. These ballots could still be pouring in over the next few days. In what is considered to be an extremely close race that might come down to a recount, this remaining number could be significant.
In Quinnipiac’s final poll in Iowa before Election Day, the race between Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst was deadlocked at 47% a piece. Besides showing the candidates in a tie, it also showed that both are receiving the same support from independents, 44% to 44%. However, the poll also revealed that Braley had a commanding 20-point lead with early voters, 56% – 36%.
When we look at the absentee voter numbers, we only see a slight lead when it comes to registered Democrats compared to registered Republicans. Considering Braley has a huge lead among early voters, it seems possible that his support from independents may be more than the polls are indicating. That large lead with those who’ve already voted seems to show independents, at least those that have already voted, are leaning towards Braley.
Iowa’s Senate race is one of the biggest elections in the country this midterm. The seat is currently held by retiring Democrat Tom Harkin. If Republicans can flip this seat red, Democrats may not be able to hold onto the Senate majority. The balance of the Senate may very well hinge on this race.