Iowa’s first congressional district seat in eastern Iowa is one Democrats hope to pick up in their quest to gain majority control of the U.S. House. Republicans hope to keep it in the GOP’s hands.

The two major party candidates running to take the seat vacated by Republican Jim Nussle are both political newcomers, and they come from two of the main cities in the district. Mike Whalen, the Republican candidate, is a businessman from the Quad Cities and Scott County Auditor Karen Fitzsimmons reports higher-than-normal turn-out today in Whalen’s backyard. “We’ve been busy since the polls opened at seven,” Fitzsimmons says.

The number of “early” votes is down from the last mid-term election, however. Fitzsimmons had expected about 20,000 absentee ballots this year, but just over 14,000 have been cast — about 300 less than the number of early votes cast in Scott County in 2002.

Bruce Braley, the Democratic candidate, is from Waterloo, and Black Hawk County Auditor Grant Veeder says there’s a “big” increase in the number of voters in Braley’s backyard compared to four years ago in the last mid-term election. Veeder says as of two o’clock this afternoon, over 17,500 voters had cast ballots in Black County. That’s 2,000 more than the pace in Black Hawk County at two o’clock on Election Day 2002.

The number of absentee ballots in Black Hawk County is nearly the same this year compared to 2002. At the close of business Monday, the Black Hawk County Auditors office had received just over 93-hundred absentee ballots — 42 fewer ballots than four years ago.