The Presidential match up in Iowa is extremely close. Four of the last five polls conducted have Obama up marginally and one poll has Romney up by one point. The Real Clear Politics Average has Obama up by a narrow three points (48.6 to 45.4). These numbers are expected to remain close between now and November 6th, however, whichever candidate has the edge on any given day in October could have a significant edge on the other candidate because ballots are already being cast. Due to early voting and the unique processes in place in Iowa, the outcome of this election could be determined before November 6th.
Iowa is one of over 30 states that have no fault absentee voting. Iowans were able to vote beginning on September 27th. You have to request an absentee ballot in order to vote early but you don’t have to give any reason why you request the ballot, nor are there any restrictions on who can request the ballots, the exception being that you must be a registered voter. Iowans are taking advantage of the ability to vote early for several reasons, one of them being to get the campaigns to stop calling their homes. If you vote early, you are removed from the call lists.
Iowa is extremely unique in that almost any place can act as a satellite polling station. The process requires a petition with 100 signatures and that location can become an official election site. There is a minimum time period of six hours, but the election site can function as such for more than one day. Parties and campaigns are taking full advantage of this opportunity and reports out of Iowa say Democrats have the early voting edge, with more D’s requesting absentee ballots.
This trend in increased early voting means a positive jobs report or strong debate performance could have serious influence on the outcome in Iowa – and the poll numbers could be translating into actual votes. It also gives the campaigns a new tactic that should be taken advantage of. The locals say Iowans, known for holding the first in the nation presidential primary, are politically savvy, so most voters know where they stand and early voting won’t influence the outcome. We won’t know for sure until after November 6th but it’s certainly a trend to watch.