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Control of Senate in US Midterm Elections Could Hinge on Iowa Turnout

Control of Senate in US Midterm Elections Could Hinge on Iowa Turnout
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The balance of power between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate hinges on the outcome of the November 4 midterm elections. Each party is campaigning for votes in close races, including the midwestern state of Iowa. The winner in Iowa could be decided by the party most successful in convincing their supporters to get out to vote.

Even though the November 4 midterm elections are still days away, the polls are open in Iowa.

Early voting here began in late September, and so far, more than 300,000 people have cast ballots, including 18-year-old Jameisha Morgan. She says, "It felt good after I voted and to turn in my vote.”

It was the first time Morgan cast a ballot in an election. She is supporting Democratic candidate Bruce Braley in the U.S. Senate race in Iowa. She says the biggest reason other voters her age don't cast their ballots is a lack of interest.

“They’re not even worried about the election. Most people don’t even know who Bruce Braley is," she said. "So getting them to talk about it and be educated is the hardest part.”

Morgan has some help in that effort, thanks in part to high profile visits to the state and campaign rallies that featured former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Speaking specifically to young voters on Iowa university campuses to support Bruce Braley, the first lady’s message was simple - each vote counts.

“Make no mistake about it, this race is going to be tight," said Mrs. Obama. "And we know that races like this can be won or lost by just a few thousand, even a few hundred votes.”

Bruce Braley’s challenger, Republican Joni Ernst, echoed a similar message to GOP supporters at the annual Ronald Reagan Dinner in the state capital, Des Moines.

“Every vote makes a difference, folks," said Ernst. "I’m asking all of you if you haven’t voted yet, please make sure that you absentee vote. Make sure you do that. If you would rather go to the polls, that’s great. But make sure you go to the polls.”

University of Iowa political science professor Tim Hagle says the key to winning the close Senate race in Iowa is courting the vote of those not affiliated with either political party.

“It wasn’t expected that this Senate race for us would be this close; it is giving us more attention,” he said.

“The independents here, what we call no party voters, is an even larger group than Democrats or Republicans," he said. "Now they don’t turn out quite as well for midterm elections than those who have registered for one of the parties, but you have to energize your base, and reach out to those no party voters because they are the ones who are going to decide the election.”

Voting Registration numbers back up Hagle’s assessment. He adds the party affiliation of those who have signed up to vote in Iowa is split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

Most polls show Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley virtually tied in the lead up to Election Day November 4.

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    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.