Iowa’s primary sees record voter turnout

With several contested races on the ballot, the June 5 primary broke state and county records for overall and Democratic turnout.

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Iowa’s primary sees record voter turnout

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Iowa voters surged to a record-setting
day for turnout in the June 5 primary.

Iowans cast nearly 280,000 ballots in
the election, surpassing the previous June primary vote record,
233,090 in 2014. The mark is likely due to a host of competitive races
and perhaps Democrats being motivated to vote, officials said.

Total absentee ballots
leading up to
June 5 also
broke a state record. Primary voters cast 49,808 absentee ballots,
breaking the previous record, 40,718 in 2014.

“We have surpassed all primary records
in state history with this primary,” said Kevin Hall, an official in
the Iowa Secretary of State Office.

Democratic voters especially surged in
the primary to decide a number of Democratic nominees for the November
general election. Approximately 176,529 Democratic voters cast ballots
to decide the party’s nominee for governor
out of a field of five candidates to run against Iowa Gov. Kim
Reynolds in November.

This ballpark figure estimates how
many Democratic voters turned out
. Official turnout numbers will be released at a later

In contrast, approximately 95,000
Republican voters checked off Reynolds as the Republican nominee in
governor’s race, which garnered the most votes on the Republican side.
Reynolds was unopposed in the Republican primary.

With only a few high offices contested
in the Republican primary, Hall said, more Democrats voted despite
Republicans having a higher number of registered voters in

“[The high Democratic turnout] is
because they had a competitive race for the governor’s office;
obviously, we’ve got the top elected official in the state of Iowa, so
that was to be expected,” Hall said.

Five state races were contested by
Democrats, including the field for the gubernatorial nomination. In
that race, retired business executive Fred Hubbell emerged victorious
to face Reynolds in November.

RELATED: Hubbell wins Democratic primary in Iowa
governor race

On the Republican side, only the
secretary of agriculture and Iowa’s 4th Congressional District
nominations were decided by the primary.

Democrats outpaced Republicans in
record-setting early voting leading up to the primary as well.
Approximately 35,714 Democrats cast absentee ballots, Republicans
accounted for 14,679.

Registered voters topped 2 million
after polls closed — another state record.
As of
June 1
, there were around
600,000 active registered Democrats and approximately 40,000 more
active registered Republicans. The largest number of registered
voters, however, were “no party,” more than 700,000.

In Johnson County, the number of
voters surpassed the primary-turnout record set in 1994 and the
Democratic turnout record set in 2006, Johnson County Auditor
Weipert said

Weipert said he thought the
record-breaking turnout was likely due to a number of factors,
including a contested state Senate seat and Board of Supervisors race,
but he also thought the turnout could be the result of Democrats
mobilizing to vote after a couple years of a Republican-trifecta state
government and a Republican president in the White House.

“Democrats came out in force,” Weipert
said. “The question we’re asking ourselves before we leave the office
is, ‘Is this blue wave going to continue all summer?’ and ‘What does
this mean for November’s elections?’ ”

On the morning of June 5, voters in a
few counties, including Johnson County, received erroneous text
messages that caused some confusion in the primary. The messages,
which started with “Tomorrow is the Democratic Primary,” were due to
an “error by one of the campaigns,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate
said, though he did not specify which campaign.
Voters in Black Hawk, Johnson, Linn, Polk,
and Winneshiek Counties received the messages.

Pate said the messages were “not
malicious in their intent.”

The messages added confusion to a soft
launch for a new photo-ID requirement at the polls this year. The ID
requirement was part of a law the Iowa Legislature passed last year;
voters this year could sign an oath verifying their
identity if they forgot their IDs. Starting 2019, however,
voters will have to show IDs to vote, with no oath to fall back on.

With record turnout for the primary,
officials said neither factor seemed to deter voters.

“The real test is going to be next
year,” Johnson County Deputy Auditor of Elections Carrie Nierling
said. “We’ll see whether or not people will have problems with showing
their IDs at
the polls, but since they can sign the oath this year, it’s really not
a huge factor.”

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