Low voter turnout hurts Democrats


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In the aftermath of the GOP’s massive wave of victories Tuesday night, Democrats are blaming voter turnout.

“We haven’t quite figured out how to engage voters in the midterm elections,” said Gerene Denning, head of the Johnson County Democrats. “We heard some pretty impressive numbers.”

Despite the effort, Denning cites a “systematic error” in getting voters to turn out for the party.

“We need to be more effective in mobilizing students and young professional women,” she said.

According to the Iowa Secretary of State website, about 1.1 million people voted for the U.S. Senate race. Of those votes, about 584,000 were casted for Republican Senator-elect Joni Ernst, while Democrat Bruce Braley only got about 489,000 votes.

The gubernatorial race also saw more than a million votes. Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds received more than 661,000 votes, and Democratic cahndidates Jack Hatch and Monica Vernon received about 417,000 votes.

Although they may be important, grassroots efforts are hardly the only thing that drive voter turnout.

“Turnout numbers are dominated by the sense of excitement on election day,” said Douglas Jones, an associate professor at the UI who specializes in election technology.

“Obviously, if the public isn’t excited, it becomes a ‘well, what does it matter?’ type of situation,” he said.

Jones said in terms of generating excitement, Republicans outperformed the Democrats by far.

“The [GOP] had this type of revolutionary rhetoric, while the Democrats sounded like they wanted to keep everything the same,” Jones said.

While the Democrats experienced a lower voter turnout, Johnson County as a whole saw a very slight increase.

Tuesday night saw 58.5 percent of Johnson County’s registered voters partake — roughly 52,336 of the 89,532 that are registered.

This is a 0.35 percent increase from 58.15 in 2010, when 53,855 voted out of the 92,610 that registered.

Although seemingly minimal, Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert found the increase particularly impressive in light of the 21-ordinance in the 2010 midterm.

“The 21-ordinance drove the student turnout up considerably; I’m pleased that it didn’t dip this year,” he said.

Indeed, there were relatively few hot-button issues left to the public this year.

“There were no student-related issues on the ballot, and no downtown drivers in turnout,” said Bill Keetel, chair of the Johnson County Republicans.

Overall, officials are hopeful that voter turnout will continue to increase in coming years, especially in regards to the upcoming presidential election.

“The caucus changes the role of the voter,” Keetel said. “I’ve identified 12 potential Republican candidates and seven Democrats. The presidential race is wide open, and we are expecting a massive turnout.”

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