Three political analysts this week shared with Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce members how this year’s election might differ from past ones.

“Whether you’re at the water cooler or a cocktail party — well, not much of that these days — people are talking about the election,” said chamber President Molly Grover. “The election and politics are dominating conversation. Elections determine how taxpayers’ dollars are spent, and ultimately, that impacts our members’ businesses.”

The panel members delivered their thoughts during an online event. That helped frame much of the discussion, which surrounded the already visible increase in early voting and mail-in absentee voting because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“The issue that is controversial is there are some states — and Iowa is not one of them — where you’re sent unsolicited absentee ballots,” said Dustin Miller, an associate attorney at Nyemaster Goode PC and executive director of Iowa Chamber Association. “Even the president himself and those around him have done absentee. This is just one of these ring-the-bell sorts of things, like ‘death taxes’ and ‘defund the police.’ Most people are OK with mail-in ballots as long as it’s secure and you request them.”

Loras College political science professor Chris Budzisz, too, said Iowa is not a state with a mail-in problem.

“Iowa’s mail-in ballot system, election system and even re-districting system is a model, and it works well,” he said. “What was mailed out in Iowa was an application. You have to take that affirmative step. Then, there’s ballot tracking. You can see when it’s been received.”

But there are as many systems as states.

“The other piece of the controversy is, when you can send the ballot and have it still be counted?” said Andrew Conlin, of Conlin State Strategies. “Are states going to count whatever comes in the door?”

Budzisz said the many differences between states could make Election Night strange given the historic propensity for Democrats to use mail-in voting more than Republicans.

“Given that we know there’s going to be such a big split between Democrats and Republicans, when batches come in, depending on where that batch is coming from, depending on if it’s absentee or not, sometimes there will be weird spikes,” he said.

Miller, though, pondered if that trend will continue given the impact of the pandemic on people’s behavior.

“Are you really going to see the historic trend of Republicans showing up to the polls in person?” he asked.

Regardless, all three agreed that the unique circumstances mean reporting of results on election night will differ from the past.