Voting Early and Often

With Election Day not much more than a month away, we're already on the hunt for clues about what the mood of voters will really ...
by | September 28, 2006

With Election Day not much more than a month away, we're already on the hunt for clues about what the mood of voters will really be like this year. In that context, a story in today's Des Moines Register quickly caught my eye.

It seems that 50,000 Democrats have requested absentee ballots in Iowa, compared with just 11,000 Republicans. Since one of the biggest questions of the year is whether it's true that Democrats are more fired up and thus readier to vote, that seems like good news for the Democrats. They'll have to work hard to hold the governorship, which Tom Vilsack is vacating, and both parties hope to break the logjam in the legislature.

But read the story more deeply, and the smile may fade from Democratic faces.

It seems Democrats in that state are pretty good about getting their voters to ask for absentee ballots. The party ran up a big lead in absentee voting two years ago -- but lost it as President Bush carried the state.

Iowa was one of a three-fingered handful of states to switch sides from 2000 to 2004. Interestingly, the other one was New Hampshire, the other state most likely to receive plenty of early attention from presidential hopefuls. Obviously, voters in those states found new things to dislike and changed their collective minds, if just barely. (The third switcher was New Mexico.)

"A large part of our effort is turnout," Cullen Sheehan, the state GOP executive director told the Register. "If they do it early, that's great. Our success has been to get people out on Election Day."

In other words, that tiresome response to bad news in polls -- the only poll that matters is the election -- is true. Despite all the speculation and blather to come in the weeks ahead, we're still going to have to wait until November 7 to find out whether it's going to be a Democratic year, or happy days for the Republicans.

And even on that day, it will be hard to resist being misled, yet again, by exit polls.

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