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The Gazette KCRG
Posted January 3, 2012
Linn County sees boost in caucus turnout

Bob Swenson (left) and Quinton Olson, both of Clermont, look at the new Iowa House district map during the Republican caucus for Clermont and Pleasant Valley / Elgin precincts at the Clermont Opera House on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2011, in Clermont. (Liz Martin/SourceMedia Group News)


CEDAR RAPIDS — Strong caucus turnout was reported at both Republican and Democratic caucus sites in the Corridor, with both sides proclaiming successful, unifying evenings Tuesday.

Some Republican caucus sites in Linn County reported double the voters of 2008. It happened at Van Buren Elementary in Cedar Rapids, where about 130 ballots were cast, according to Eric Rosenthal, the county’s GOP caucus coordinator.

Kennedy High School had about 30 more people than they had seating, while other sites were right on track with four years ago.
Statewide, Republican turnout was estimated to fall well short of the record 119,000 voters of 4 years ago.

With 96% of precincts reporting at 10:45 pm, 117,670 Iowans took part in Republican caucuses in school buildings, sports domes and living rooms across the state.  That was just shy of the 119,000 record set four years ago when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee rode a wave of evangelical enthusiasm to a first-place finish.

Overall, Rosenthal said Linn County numbers were generally on track with 2008 numbers. He said he suspects a segment of younger voters turned out in the absence of the older voters, due to a recent cold snap.

“If the 40 to 50 degree temperatures hadn’t been followed by 40- to 50-mile-per-hour winds, I think we would have seen 500 to 1,500 more people,” Rosenthal said.

He said the preliminary total for Linn County caucus attendance was 8,476, compared to slightly below 7,900 in 2008.

Bob Anderson, chairman of the Johnson County GOP, said a crowd filled the top floor of the Swisher American Legion. He said it was a “great showing of unity,” with 154 voters, compared to 120 in 2008.

Despite the bump in attendance, operations stayed on track.

“We had six people checking people in,” Anderson said. “It was like going to a supermarket — If you have the right number of checkers, you’ll get through pretty quick.”

Tim Hagle, associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa, said his caucus site at Lucas Elementary School in Iowa City saw a 10 percent spike in attendance compared to 2008. He said he was surprised to see almost one-third of the voters did not participate four years ago.

“One of the interesting things was that of the 163 people, we had 51 new registrations,” Hagle said. “They were new voters or independents or Democrats who switched over.”

Democrats in both counties reported higher turnout than expected. Caucusgoers watched President Barack Obama speak via live video link.

Officials said turnout also was driven by frustration with the Republican proposals and attack ads.

“It was a civil way to protest,” said Terry Dahms, chairman of the Johnson County Democrats.

Bret Nilles, Linn County Democratic caucus coordinator, said he was surprised to see a big increase at Excelsior Middle School in Marion. He said about five people participated in 1996, the year Bill Clinton was an incumbent, but this year, around 20 attended.

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