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News 11.4.20: Record Voting, Election Update, Ho-Chunk Gambling Plans and Marijuana in SD


Iowans set a new voter turnout record on election night. More than 1.69 million people voted, surpassing the 2012 record by about 100,000.

According to Secretary of State Paul Pate, 76 percent of registered voters participated, compared to 73 percent in 2012.

Iowans also shattered the early voting record, with more than 1-million absentee ballots received as of Wednesday morning. Absentee ballots postmarked by November second will also be counted if they arrive by noon on November ninth.

Nebraska voters set a turnout record in the 2020 general election, with nearly 74% of eligible voters casting a ballot. Secretary of State Bob Evnen said Wednesday that voters beat the previous record from the 2016 general election by about 68,000 votes. Election officials statewide counted 936,106 votes cast. Evnen says 34 counties had a turnout of more than 80%, and four counties had a turnout of 88%. He says the record will likely increase once counties process an additional 20,000 to 25,000 ballots and provisional ballots that were submitted on Tuesday.

Republicans in Iowa have flipped one U.S. House seat and are competing in a tight race to pick up another. Republicans were guaranteed to control at least two of Iowa’s four seats when the House reconvenes in January, up from the one they held during the current two-year session. Republican Ashley Hinson defeated first-term Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer in the district that includes Cedar Rapids and much of northeast Iowa. Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was competing to flip a second seat that came open with the retirement of Democrat Dave Loebsack. Miller-Meeks' race against Democrat Rita Hart remained too close to call Wednesday. Democrat Cindy Axne won a second term representing a congressional district that stretches from Des Moines through southwest Iowa.

Republican State Senator Randy Feenstra won the race for the 4th Congressional District against J.D. Scholten.

In the U.S. Senate race in Iowa, Republican Joni Ernst will serve another 6-years in Washington after beating challenger Theresa Greenfield.

Democrats thought this would be their year to flip the Iowa House of Representatives, but unofficial election results show Republicans have kept control of the chamber.

Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley says he believes they gained six seats, which would give them a 59 to 41 majority in the Iowa House.

Planned Parenthood Activists of Iowa put out a statement saying the state was dealt a major setback. It says in part, “make no mistake, Governor Kim Reynolds and her House and Senate allies will keep coming after our health, safety and civil rights.  However, Planned Parenthood will never back down when it comes to fighting for reproductive freedom and health care for all Iowans.” (see more in news release below).

In Woodbury County, three Republicans won seats on the Board of Supervisors; incumbents Keith Radig and Rocky De Witt.  Jeremy Taylor, who resigned from the board earlier this year because of a residency controversy, beat current supervisors, Marty Pottebaum.  This means in January the full board will be comprised of Republicans.

Two Sioux City Democrats won seats in the Iowa House.  They are incumbent Chris Hall and Steven Hansen.  Republican Jacob Bossman ran unopposed.  And, so did Chad Sheehan, who will be the next Woodbury County Sheriff when current sheriff Dave Drew retires at the end of his current term.

Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill won a 7th term in office with 52% of votes.  His Republican challenger, Barbara Parker received 47%.

This election received more attention, after a judge ruled against Gill sending pre-populated ballot request forms to voters in the county.

Gamblers could see new casinos in Omaha and Lincoln by this time next year now that voters have ended Nebraska’s longtime ban. Lance Morgan, the president and CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., says the corporation plans to spend $300 million to add casinos at existing horse-racing tracks in both cities, in addition to Atokad Park in South Sioux City. Ho-Chunk is the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Morgan says casino backers and the state’s horse-racing industry want to open casinos as soon as possible and then expand them to include restaurants, hotels and other amenities. Roughly two-thirds of voters approved three constitutional amendments Tuesday to legalize casinos at Nebraska’s six licensed horse racing tracks. Roughly two-thirds of voters approved three constitutional amendments Tuesday to legalize casinos at Nebraska’s six licensed horse racing tracks. 

INTERVIEW: Ho-Chuck Inc.'s Lance Morgan on Election Night

After rejecting medical marijuana four years ago and struggling to pass an industrial hemp bill, voters in conservative South Dakota went all-in on the use of pot. South Dakota became the first state to legalize recreational and medical pot on the same ballot, after supporters of the two measures joined forces and promoted them as a package deal. The approval or recreational pot, which supporters referred to as the “adult marijuana” measure, had followers on Twitter wondering how South Dakota could pull it off when their states have not. The leader of the group opposing the measure says they attempted to separate the two measures but their campaign was outspent five-to-one. The two measures are set to go into effect in July.

News release from Planned Parent Advocates of Iowa

Iowa Election Results Could Impact Iowans’ Reproductive Freedom

Des Moines, Iowa— Iowa Republicans who oppose reproductive freedom will maintain their control at the statehouse and gain seats in Congress, putting reproductive rights and health care in the state at risk.  

“Iowa was dealt a major setback in this election,” said Erin Davison-Rippey, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa Political Action Committee. “But despite the disappointing results, Planned Parenthood health centers serve thousands of Iowans every year and will continue to serve our communities, no matter what lies ahead. The health of our state is our number one priority and that will not change. In fact, in response to community needs, Planned Parenthood reopened a health center this year to provide STI testing, cancer screenings, birth control, and abortion care. As our state continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and skyrocketing STI rates, Iowans need and deserve a strong public health system, which includes Planned Parenthood health centers and telehealth services across our state.”  

“Make no mistake—Gov. Kim Reynolds and her House and Senate allies will keep coming after our health and safety and after our civil rights. These fights will continue to be difficult but, we will never back down when it comes to fighting for reproductive freedom and health care for all Iowans. Our strength and our persistence will shape the future of this state and this country.”

Iowa Republicans passed a barrage of anti-abortion bills in the past four years since controlling the Iowa House and Senate and Governor’s office. The state became one of the first in the nation to adopt a six-week abortion ban and 72-hour waiting period. Both were struck down by Iowa courts which ruled them unconstitutional and affirmed Iowans’ fundemental right to safe, legal abortion.

“Although the election results are disappointing, Planned Parenthood will continue to fight with Iowans so all people can get the health care they need to be healthy and pursue their dreams—no matter what,” Davison-Rippey said. 

The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice has the potential to impact reproductive health care across the country. There are currently 17 abortion-related cases before the Supreme Court, creating ample opportunity for changes to abortion rights. At least one of these cases directly challenges Roe v. Wade.

If Roe is overturned or significantly dismantled, individual states would decide whether or how Americans can access abortion care, potentially setting states like Iowa back decades. Iowa already faces a public health crisis, after Republican lawmakers dismantled the state’s family planning program in 2017, excluding Planned Parenthood patients from this funding for birth control, STI testing and treatment, breast and cervical cancer screenings and annual exams for low- to moderate-income women. Since lawmakers made these changes, STIs have been increasing at a faster pace and the state’s abortion rate increased 25 percent, while maternal mortality rates have continued to climb as labor and delivery units across the state are forced to close.  


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