Far more Republicans than Democrats are voting in today’s Primary. Thunderstorms have marched across the state, perhaps prompting some voters to delay a trip to their polling place. However election officials in eastern, central and western Iowa say turn-out trends for Republicans already are much higher than for Democrats because of interest in the Republican race for governor.
Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitsgerald says a fierce rain storm in the Des Moines area just as the polls opened at seven o’clock meant voting got off to a slow start. “We think things have picked up quite a bit in the Republican Primary,” Fitzgerald says. “As of our one o’clock calls, 12.3 percent of (registered Republican voters in Polk County) had participated, and that does include people who have changed parties which we are seeing a good bit of that going on, especially in the suburbs.”
Republican voter turn-out in Iowa’s largest county appears to be on a pace that’s similar to the Primary election eight years ago. “We look for it to be rivaling the 2002 numbers where we had 25,000 Republicans come out and vote in Polk County,” Fitzgerald says. “We’re pretty confident we’re going to get there.”
As for turn-out for the Democratic Primary, only 3400 Democrats had voted in Polk County polling places by one o’clock this afternoon. “The Democrats are definitely lower than we expected,” Fitzgerald says.
Tom Slockett is the county auditor in Johnson County, which is home to the University of Iowa’s Iowa City campus. “We are seeing heavier turn-out among Republicans in Johnson County,” Slockett says. “We’re known as a very Democratic county, but Republicans are voting at a higher percentage of registrations than the Democrats this election.”
Slockett says “some” Johnson County Democrats are switching parties today and voting in the Republican Primary and “a large number” of independent voters are casting ballots in the Republican Primary, too. “The turn-out was high for early voting and low on this rainy day,” Slockett says. “It was fifth lowest in the last 30 years as of 11 o’clock.”
Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill was delivering ballots to polling places in the Sioux City area earlier this afternoon to ensure precints didn’t run out of ballots. “It’s a better-than-average turn-out for the Republican side of the ballot,” Gill says. “We’re scrambling around to make sure that everybody has ballots in their precincts.”
One of the Republican candidates for governor lives in Woodbury County, but Gill says interest in local legislative races is a key factor, too. “You know it’s not an outstanding turn-out,” Gill says, “but it is better-than-average for a Primary.”
The state’s commissioner of elections expects between 150,000 and 175,000 Republican ballots to be cast in today’s Primary and about 100,000 Democratic ballots.