voteIowa Republicans have returned nearly three times as many absentee ballots as Democrats did for today’s primary election. Iowa’s 99 county auditors had received nearly 27,000 absentee ballots by the close of business Friday, and over 20,000 of those were from Republicans.

Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald is the chief election officer in Iowa’s largest county where over 3,000 absentee ballots had been returned by mid-day Monday. Fitzgerald isn’t expecting over-all turnout to set a record today, though, because voters must register either as a Republican or a Democrat to cast a ballot.

“So we do think it’s going to be a little bit lower than a General Election,” Fitzgerald says. “However we are seeing quite a bit of activity on the Republican side given that we have seven candidates all from the Polk County area running for congress and a very competitive governors race.”

About 300,000 Iowans voted in the 1994 Republican Primary Election, as many Democrats switched parties in order to help Republican Congressman Fred Grandy’s challenge of then-Governor Terry Branstad. In 2002, nearly 200,000 Republicans voted in that year’s Primary which, again, featured three Republican candidates for governor.

“We think it’s going to be a little bit more like 2002 than 1994. We’re just not seeing the overall anger that’s translating into people coming down and telling our folks that they’re angry and this is why they’re changing,” Fitzgerald says. “We’re seeing a lot of people come over (to the county auditor’s office) and changing parties, and what they’re doing is changing because there’s a bigger game on the Republican side than on the Democratic side.”

For those who switch parties to vote in today’s primary, Fitzgerald has a reminder: you have to be a member of that party ’til at least Wednesday. “You can change your political affiliation at the polling site. It’s a real quick change, but you have to be that party for at least a day,” Fitzgerald says. “So when you go in and make the change to vote in that Primary, you’re going to take the care back out with you and re-register if you desire to be in a different party.”

That means if you’re an independent registered as a “no party” voter, you’ll have to be a “card-carrying” Republican or Democrat ’til at least Wednesday in order to vote in today’s primary