- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The number of absentee ballots requested by Iowa voters is nearly double the number sought 43 days before the 2010 election, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz said Monday.

Residents have increasingly opted for voting by absentee ballot in recent elections for the convenience and in response to increasing pressure from political parties striving to get as many votes as possible cast by Election Day.

Democrats have in recent election cycles excelled at the strategy, but the numbers released Monday show Republican absentee ballot requests are up nearly 145 percent from 2010 to just over 31,000. Democratic requests have climbed nearly 67 percent to nearly 58,000.

That shows Republican Party efforts that include spending about $1 million this election cycle on voter turnout are paying off, party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said.

“I truly believe that these numbers for the Republican Party at least are a direct result of us acknowledging that we cannot give Democrats that big of a head start,” Kaufmann said. “When you’ve got the candidates and the party and the resources all working in unison I would be sadly disappointed if I didn’t see these numbers moving in our direction a little bit.”

Democrats, however, point out that they still have a nearly 27,000-vote lead among early voters.

“For Democrats, voting by mail and voting early in person have become second nature. They do it when we push them but we’re getting to the point now where Democrats vote early automatically,” Iowa Democratic Party spokeswoman Christina Freundlich said. “I think Republicans are still trying to play catch-up.”

She said party workers have been pushing Democrats who sometimes do not vote in off-year elections to vote by mail.

No party requests are up 138 percent to 23,000. When all early voters are tallied, absentee ballot requests are up nearly 98 percent to just over 112,000 so far.

“More people definitely want to vote early and vote absentee,” Shultz said. “It’s something obviously that we encourage. We want everybody who’s eligible to vote, to get out to the polls or vote absentee.”

In the 2012 election, 43 percent of the 1.6 million Iowa residents who voted cast absentee ballots, up significantly from the 2010 election when nearly 31 percent of 1.1 million voters completed a ballot ahead of time.

Two-thirds of the states allow some type of early voting, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.

Iowa allows absentee voting by mail and offers early in-person voting at the offices of county auditors beginning Thursday, the 40th day before Election Day.

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