Empowered students could create political watershed


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Today’s schedule for UI students should be as follows: Wake up, go to class, and vote in the City Council primary. The first two are (hopefully) a given, but the last one is a necessity.

Two years ago, the students came out in droves to crush the 21-ordinance in the city election. There will be no such drinking issue to galvanize the student population this time around. But with three students running, the opportunity for students to vote for student-centered candidates and issues is readily available.

UI students have long spoken about the lack of a student voice in city government. Now is the time for that to change. All that is required of you is simple: Vote at your local polling site today. Polls are open today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters can find their polling place on the Johnson County auditor’s website.

The issues in this city are your issues as well. Vote for Dan Tallon if you’re concerned about rent issues. Cast your ballot for Jared Bazzell if you’re of the business- and economic-development mindset. Fill in the little oval for Jeff Shipley if his experience as council liaison gets your politically active brain rolling. Even if you’re not interested in voting for a student — city residents Susan Mims and Terry Dickens are also running — that should not deter you from exercising your democratic power.

The issue is not whom you vote for, but that you vote.

Tiring students with banalities about the civic responsibility of voting is hackneyed and rarely gets them to the polls on election day. You should want to vote, because for years students have stood on the sidelines while those in power have been free to do as they please.

“Having no student representation means that we are drastically under-represented on the board that makes decisions that affect our lives on a daily basis,” UI Student Government President Mike Currie said.

In the 2007 City Council primary, 3,182 voters went to the polls — just 7.73 percent of the registered voters. UI students can have an enormous effect on the outcome of this election. In a presidential election, the “one man can’t make a difference” excuse is ubiquitous. But for city elections — especially primary elections — a heavy student turnout could dramatically shift the election.

If you want to have a say in how we deal with violence on the city’s Southeast Side, the economic makeup of the downtown area, and city ordinances that directly affect students, then voting is a simple and easy step to point Iowa City in the preferred direction. Students need to shift their mindset from being a captive audience to being a powerful audience. We must make the city fear our power — and not by talk or false bravado. As soon as we show Iowa City residents that we care about our city by voting for its leaders, they will have no other choice but to take our concerns seriously.

Elections can be the great equalizer in our city. They are blind to stereotypes and misconceptions. With two filled-in bubbles on the ballot, students can insert themselves into the decisions of Iowa City government. Working together with civic and community leaders will only benefit the relationship between Iowa City, students, and the university.

Student ignorance is not bliss, when it comes to elections. It is a naïve approach that only places students further adrift from our common goal of making Iowa City a better place to live.

City residents might label us uninterested or lazy. They might say that we only care about bar-related issues. For one day, let them label us with a word that carries respect and power.

UI students are voters.

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