New records set for voter turnout as Democrats win in Johnson County, Republicans win statewide

I Voted Today stickers. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Iowa had a record turnout for the Nov. 3 general election, breaking the previous record by 100,000 votes, Secretary of State Paul Pate tweeted on Wednesday morning. According to the unofficial statewide results, 1,687,883 have been counted. (Mailed-in absentee ballots postmarked by Monday, Nov. 2, will be counted if they are received in a county auditor’s office by noon on Monday, Nov. 9.)

The statewide turnout was good news for Republicans, with Sen. Joni Ernst winning reelection by wider margins than polling had suggested was possible, as well as Republican Ashley Hinson defeating first-term Rep. Abby Finkenauer in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District. The state also went for Donald Trump, as it did in 2016.

Although Trump won the state by a substantial amount, 7.3 percentage points, it was a decline from his 2016 victory, when he defeated Hillary Clinton in Iowa by 9.5 percentage points.

It was Election Day votes that made the difference for Republicans. Biden won 57.6 percent of early votes, according to the current count.

Johnson County also had a record turnout for the election, but the results in the county were very different from those in the state overall. Unofficial results show approximately 84,000 voters, 86 percent of the county’s eligible voters, cast ballots, which is about 7,000 more than the previous record that was set in the 2016 election.

All three Democratic incumbents on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors — Lisa Green-Douglass, Royceann Porter and Rod Sullivan — easily won reelection. Neither incumbent Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert nor first-time candidate for sheriff Brad Kunkel, both Democrats, faced an opponent in the election.

At the state-level, Johnson County Democrats were almost as successful. Iowa House of Representatives incumbents Dave Jacoby (District 74), Amy Nielsen (District 77) and Mary Mascher (District 86) ran unopposed in Tuesday’s election, as did first-time candidate Christina Bohannan (District 85). But things were different in Iowa House District 73.

The district covers part of Johnson County, all of Cedar County and a small piece of Muscatine County, and has a Republican incumbent, Bobby Kaufmann. Democrat Lonny Pulkrabek, the outgoing sheriff of Johnson County, challenged Kaufmann this year. Pulkrabek carries the Johnson County portion of the district by 428 votes, but ended up losing the district to Kaufmann by 3,763 votes, according to the unofficial totals. The 3.453 votes Pulkrabek got in Johnson County represent 47.3 percent of the 7,299 votes he received districtwide.

The divide between Johnson County voters and voters in the majority of voters in the rest of the state was also evident in the federal races on Tuesday’s ballot.

Biden carried Johnson County by 71 percent, beating Hillary Clinton’s 2016 total of 65.3 percent of the county’s vote. And both the Democratic U.S Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield, and Rita Hart, the party’s candidate for the open House seat in the Iowa 2nd Congressional district, easily carried the county.

Greenfield won 69 percent of the county’s vote, but ended up losing to Ernst by more than 110,00 votes statewide. Hart received 70 percent of the county’s vote, but as of Wednesday morning, she was trailing her Republican opponent Mariannette Miller-Meeks by 282 votes out of the total of 393,963 votes cast, according to the unofficial count.

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Greenfield has conceded but shortly after 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Greenfield’s campaign manager Zach Meunier released a statement on his candidate’s behalf.

“Ballots are outstanding and over the coming days we will ensure that Iowans’ voices are heard and that remaining votes are counted. Iowa election law is incredibly clear that absentee ballots postmarked by the day before the election and received by a county auditor by November 9, 2020 must be counted.”

A campaign spokesperson for Miller-Meeks told the Quad-City Times, “Dr. Miller-Meeks is up 282 votes with all the ballots that are in having been counted, and we expect her lead to stand following the official canvass.”