Iowa Democrats fume over GOP change to ballot law

Iowa Democrats are worried that a small change in the state’s voting law might have serious implications up and down the ballot this fall.

For the first time, Iowa voters will be denied the opportunity to vote a straight-party ticket — a time-honored practice that enables voters to choose a party’s entire slate of candidates with a single mark. Until the legislature outlawed the practice in 2017, voters could simply fill in just one oval to back every single party candidate on the ballot.

Now, with grassroots enthusiasm surging and a higher-than-usual turnout expected in November, Democrats are increasingly nervous that the change will end up tamping down their vote totals in a year that shows signs of being a wave election for the party.

“Republicans approved this legislation because they knew they had to face a midterm with an unpopular president,” David Yepsen, an Iowa political analyst and longtime former political reporter for The Des Moines Register. “Much of the Democratic strategy is aimed at first-time voters, especially millennials. There’s going to be a lot of first time, anti-Trump voters who will show up, and they could be confused in the polling booth.”

Straight-ticket voting is how one of every three Iowa voters have cast ballots in the past, so the elimination of the practice is of no small concern. With less than three weeks left before the election, Democrats are working to educate their voters to fill in all the ovals — and of the dangers of skipping down-ballot races.

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