Despite the flurry of "early" voting in other states, early voting totals in Iowa — so far — haven’t come close the record. Four years ago, just over 460,000 Iowa voters cast their ballots before Election Day, either by mail-in absentee ballot or by voting at their county auditor’s office.
As of Monday, October 27th, election officials say just 340,000 Iowans had cast their votes early. Secretary of State Michael Mauro, the state’s commissioner of elections, is still hopeful a record number of votes will be cast in Iowa this election.
"I think the ultimate ending number will be a pretty good number for us," Mauro says. "It’s going to be close to that 460,000, if not surpassing that 460,000 we had four years ago." Mauro estimates that one-third of the votes cast in Iowa for the 2008 General Election will be these so-called "early’ votes.
Early voting is allowed in 30 states and while many states report "exponential" growth in early balloting, Iowa is far from that blistering pace. But Brad Anderson, a spokesman for Barack Obama’s campaign effort in Iowa, says they’ve employed a new tactic this year: they’ve targeted people who have either never voted before or who voted just once in the past three elections. "We’ve focused almost all our efforts on getting these sporadic voters," Anderson says.
According to Anderson, many of the 340,000 "early" votes which have been cast in Iowa came from these "irregular" voters. "What we consider right now is that the quality of the votes that we have in the bank (is) much higher than they were in 2004," Anderson says. "So while the numbers may not necessarily be quite as high, the quality is certainly much higher."
The Obama campaign also gathered the required petition signatures and got county auditors to set up significantly more early-voting satellite voting stations. There were about 130 satellite voting stations throughout the state, including booths for early voting on college campuses in Ames, Iowa City, Des Moines and elsewhere. "When it comes to these younger voters or these first-time voters, we wanted to give them as many opportunities as possible to vote early," Anderson says. "Whether that’s satellite voting, whether that’s going to their auditor and voting, or whether it’s voting by mail — they now have three solid options for voting early and we think that’s going to be the difference on Election Day."
Dave Roederer, chairman of John McCain’s Iowa campaign effort, says the G.O.P. does not emphasize early voting. "Republicans traditionally like to wait until Election Day (to vote)," Roederer says. According to Roederer, the lag in early voting may indicate many Iowans are waiting ’til Election Day because they haven’t yet decided whether McCain or Obama will get their vote.
Mauro, the Iowa Secretary of State, is optimistic the final vote tally for Iowa after the polls close on November 4th will top previous records. "I think we’re going to have more people participate this year than we had four years ago and that would be a gigantic number," Mauro says.
Mauro points to the record number of registered voters in Iowa. Over 95 percent of Iowans who are eligible to vote have registered to do so. "I think ultimately at the end of the day, on Election Day, we’ll have more (Iowans) participating in this presidential election than we’ve had in any in the past," Mauro says.
Iowa Governor Chet Culver cast his vote early today — at the Polk County Auditor’s office. Mauro says he likes to vote on Election Day and will do so this year at his local precinct.