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Iowa State Senate District 41 special election set for Jan. 26, 2021

Election officials have scheduled a special election for the District 41 seat in the Iowa State Senate for Jan. 26, 2021. The seat became vacant when Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) resigned effective Jan. 2 after being seated in the U.S. House of Representatives. There is no primary, and the Democratic and Republican parties will select their nominees at special conventions. The filing deadline for other candidates is on Jan. 12.



Republican win certified in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, with challenge possible

The state of Iowa certified results in the election for its 2nd Congressional District, which indicate Republicans are primed to pick up their second open seat previously held by a Democrat in the 2020 U.S. House elections. Certified results showed Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) beating Rita Hart (D) by six votes. Hart indicated she would challenge the results of the election with the U.S. House. 

Rep. Dave Loebsack (D) did not run for re-election this cycle. The other open seat Republicans picked up was Michigan’s 3rd, currently represented by Justin Amash (L).

Under the Federal Contested Elections Act of 1969, the challenge will be referred to the House Administration Committee. If the committee recommends the matter to the full House, the chamber will decide the outcome by a majority vote. Article I, Section 5, of the U.S. Constitution establishes that each chamber of Congress “shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members.” 

Democrats currently control the House, and they are expected to maintain their majority when the next Congress convenes.

Democrats picked up three seats in open races for districts represented by Republicans: Georgia’s 7th, North Carolina’s 2nd, and North Carolina’s 6th. There are still two remaining open seat races without a clear winner.

Across all 2020 Congressional elections, 16 seats changed hands. Democrats picked up two seats in the Senate while Republicans picked up one. In the House, Democrats picked up three seats while Republicans picked up 10 seats.



Hinson defeats Finkenauer in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District

Ashley Hinson (R) defeated incumbent Abby Finkenauer (D) in the general election for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District. Finkenauer was first elected in 2018, defeating then-incumbent Rep. Rod Blum (R) 51% to 46%. 

Heading into the election, Hinson had served in the Iowa House of Representatives since 2016. She was endorsed by President Donald Trump (R) and Governor Kim Reynolds (R).

The 1st District was one of 31 U.S. House districts that Trump won in the 2016 presidential election and a Democratic candidate won in the 2018 midterm elections. During the presidential election, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton (D) 49% to 45% in the 1st District.

This is one of four districts so far where the New York Times, CNN, ABC, NBC, and FOX News have each called as a Democratic to Republican flip. The other three districts (Minnesota’s 7th, Oklahoma’s 5th, and New Mexico’s 2nd) also went to President Trump in 2016. The five outlets have called two districts as Republican to Democratic flips, both North Carolina districts that were redrawn last year.



Sen. Ernst wins re-election in Iowa

Incumbent Joni Ernst (R) defeated Theresa Greenfield (D), Rick Stewart (L), and Suzanne Herzog (I) in the election for U.S. Senate in Iowa. Ernst was first elected in 2014. 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent $28 million on the race. The National Republican Senatorial Committee spent $20 million.

Thirty-five of 100 Senate seats are up for election. Republicans have a 53-47 majority. Of the 35 seats up, 23 are held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats, giving Republicans greater partisan risk this year. Democrats need to win a net four seats to win an outright majority in the chamber.



Are results reported on election night coming from in-person or absentee/mail-in votes?

According to a projection from The New York Times, 80 million people will vote by mail in 2020, that number is more than twice the amount of people who did so in 2016. Given that absentee ballots take longer to process and count than in-person ballots, some voters wonder whether election night results reflect both sources of votes.

Election results reported on election night include a mixture of absentee/mail-in and in-person votes. However, many states will not complete the counting of absentee votes on election night. While some states only count absentee ballots that arrive after November 3, 2020 but are postmarked by that date, and other states are legally bound to wait until Election Day to begin processing absentee/mail-in ballots.

State laws set different reporting requirements for absentee/mail-in votes on election night. The most common method is for each precinct or voting district to add together in-person and absentee votes and report the total to the state elections agency. A few states create special precincts where absentee/mail-in votes are counted separately from in-person votes. For example, in Iowa, state law requires each county to have both an absentee ballot and special voters precinct.

Unofficial election night results are often displayed alongside the percentage of precincts reporting, which is intended as a measure of how far vote counting has progressed. The percentage of precincts reporting is not the same as the percentage of the total vote that has been counted. Precincts differ in size, meaning that one precinct might report a far greater number of votes than another. In addition, some states include a precinct in its percentage of precincts reporting if the precinct has reported any results at all, even if it is far from completing the vote count.

Additional Reading:



Steve King (R) becomes second member of Congress to lose a primary in 2020

State Sen. Randy Feenstra (R) defeated Rep. Steve King (R) in the Republican primary for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. As of 10:30 p.m. Central Time, Feenstra had received 40.6% of the vote to King’s 38.7%. No other candidate had received more than 10% of the vote.
Feenstra will face Democratic nominee J.D. Scholten in the November general election. The last Democrat to win election from the 4th district was Neal Smith (D) in 1992.
King is the second member of the U.S. House to lose a primary this year. Marie Newman defeated Rep. Dan Lipinski in the Democratic primary in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District in March.
In 2018, four members of the House were defeated in primaries: Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), and Mark Sanford (R-S.C.).


Theresa Greenfield wins Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Iowa

Theresa Greenfield defeated Michael Franken, Kimberly Graham, and Eddie Mauro to win the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Iowa. As of 9:30 p.m. Central Time, Greenfield had received 44.9% of the vote with 6% of precincts reporting. Franken followed with 26.6%, while Graham had 15.6%, and Mauro had 11.7%. A fifth candidate, Cal Woods, withdrew on May 4 and endorsed Franken. Greenfield will face first-term Sen. Joni Ernst (R) in the general election.
Greenfield will face incumbent Joni Ernst (R) in the general election. Ernst was first elected in 2014, winning 52% of the vote.


Four Iowa Supreme Court justices face a retention election in November


Four Iowa Supreme Court justices will face retention elections on November 3, 2020. The justices facing retention are Susan Christensen, Edward Mansfield, Christopher McDonald, and Thomas Waterman. All four justices were appointed by a Republican governor.

Currently, six justices on the court were appointed by a Republican governor while one was appointed by a Democratic governor.

In Iowa, judicial nominees are selected by the Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission puts together a list of candidates they have determined to be qualified and then submits this list to the governor. The Governor must then choose one of the candidates from the list. The justice must stand for a retention election one year after the appointment. If retained, justices serve for eight years with a mandatory retirement age of 72.

Additional Reading:
Judicial selection in Iowa
Susan Christensen
Edward Mansfield
Christopher McDonald
Thomas Waterman



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