Democrats, Republicans push early voting in Iowa

A volunteer asks a voter if she will be casting her ballot early or going to the polls on Election Day. (Photo: Steffi Lee)

Early voting begins Thursday in Iowa and both parties are upping their ground game to make sure voters cast their ballots before Election Day.

For many, voting early eases the frustrations of getting to the polls on Election Day in case of any unexpected emergencies.

For campaigns, this is also prime time to lock in support for their party's ticket.

"It's not just the Trump campaign," Eric Branstad, Iowa state director for Donald Trump, said to a crowd of volunteers on Saturday's National Day of Action. "It's up and down the ticket. We've got so many great candidates from local all the way to the top."

Democrats have had an early voting advantage and party leaders say that push will continue.

"We just have an energy in the party to make sure that everyone's voice is heard and get those ballots in because when Democrats get their ballots in, Democrats win," Dr. Andy Mcguire, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, said.

In previous election years, Democrats have been successful with their aggressive early voting operations.

Campaign officials are expecting it to be just as strong this year.

"2016's going to be its own election year," Kane Miller, Iowa state director for Hillary Clinton's campaign, said. "We need to make sure we build the organization that it takes to have the face-to-face conversations and have the over the phone conversations to make sure people know what their options are with regards to early voting."

Republican leaders in Iowa say they're continuing to invest a lot of their resources into early voting efforts. They've targeted Iowans who haven't voted by mail before at Trump and Mike Pence rallies and take absentee ballot request forms to voters at their homes, thriving on the face-to-face contact. With new technology, they're also speeding up the process of tracking voters' responses during their door knocking visits.

"More folks on the ground, whether that's paid staffers or volunteers, we are really leaving no voter un-turned this election cycle," Lindsay Jancek, Iowa communications director for the Republican National Committee, said. "We have an absentee ballot program involved in every single facet of our campaign, whether that's knocking on someone's door and encouraging them to vote. We're going to folks who voted in 2012 and 2014 and making sure they get an absentee ballot again."

As of Friday, Democrats had requested more than 54,000 absentee ballots, with the Republican count slightly above 20,000.

Updated numbers on Monday show Democrats were close to 59,000 absentee ballot requests and Republicans had requested more than 22,000.

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