5 Things to Know About the 2012 General Election

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By KCRG Intern

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — In the battleground state of Iowa, the presidential race has garnered most of the attention, but the rest of the ballot is important, filled with competitive congressional races, an Iowa Supreme Court retention question and legislative contests.

Here are five things to consider heading into Tuesday's general election:

— Will your polling place seem a little empty?

Iowa elections officials say they expect to set a record for early voting, with up to 40 percent of ballots being cast before Nov. 6. That could make for shorter lines at polling places Tuesday.

— What will Iowa's congressional delegation look like after the election?

Nationwide, most congressional elections are not competitive, thanks to decades of redistricting designed to create safe havens for each party. But Iowa's redistricting process is nonpartisan and the state lost a congressional seat this year, so incumbents have faced tough fights to retain their seats.

All of Iowa's four congressional districts are seen as competitive. And in the Des Moines-focused 3rd district, at least one of Iowa's longtime congressmen will lose his job. Incumbent, nine-term Republican Rep. Tom Latham moved to Clive in order to face eight-term Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell, so that means that the election will force at least one of Iowa's congressmen out of his job.

— Depending on a few legislative races, Iowa could take a hard right turn.

If Republicans pick up a couple seats in the Senate and hold the House as expected, the GOP would control the Legislature and governor's office for the first time since 1997.

Republicans have been outspoken in their plans to push ahead on a conservative agenda of property tax cuts, changes to the public school system and a reduction of government oversight efforts. They also promise to begin the process of referring a constitutional amendment to voters that would ban gay marriage, and they want to end public funding of abortions to low-income women in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity or to save the life of the mother.

— How could this election affect the Iowa Supreme Court?

Justices face a retention vote after their first year on the bench and then every eight years after that. They must receive a simple majority vote to keep the job. Iowa has adopted a nonpartisan system of nominating and appointing judges to insulate them from political pressures.

Four justices are up for retention votes in this election, but attention has been focused on Justice David Wiggins, who was part of a unanimous 2009 ruling that found a state law limiting marriage to between a man and woman violated the Iowa Constitution. In 2010, voters removed three other justices who ruled in that case.

Those supporting Wiggins argue that the retention system is meant to remove judges deemed incompetent or unethical, not because voters don't like a specific ruling. They say that if voters remove Wiggins, Iowa's justice system will be tainted as justices may focus more on the political consequences of their rulings.

Those seeking to remove Wiggins counter that he and other justices who ruled in the 2009 case let politics influence their decision, leading them to make a change that should have been left to legislators.

— In Iowa, Tuesday's election isn't only the end of a long presidential race, it's the beginning of the next one. Who should we expect to see campaigning in Iowa as the 2016 caucus nears?

If President Barack Obama wins re-election, speculation on his successor will begin immediately. With former President Bill Clinton openly supporting and campaigning for Obama, some have assumed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will make another run for the White House — though she's sounded reluctant.

Vice President Joe Biden also hasn't ruled out a run, though he'd be a record-setting 74 years old when sworn in. Others mentioned have included New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner. Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, now the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, may jump in; his 2008 attempt ended quickly.

A Mitt Romney victory would mean any Republican newcomers likely would need to wait until 2020. If Romney loses, possible candidates likely would include 2012 vice presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

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