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Election nears; ho-hum leads

BY LAUREN MILLS | NOVEMBER 03, 2009 7:20 AM

Iowa City City Council election guide

Mims stresses finances
Terry Dickens pushes safety
UISG liason Jeff Shipley shoots for council spot
UISG sponsors a City Council forum
City Council hopefuls talk violence

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Early voting in this year’s Iowa City City Council election is at a record low, and turnout is expected to remain paltry when the polls close tonight.

As of Monday, the Auditor’s Office recorded 1,313 ballots turned in — a stark contrast from the 7,165 received by this time in the 2007 election.

The city saw its lowest voter turnout in 1999, said Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett, and this year “looks like it will be approximately the same level.”

In the primary election, Susan Mims led with 1,401 votes, followed by Terry Dickens with 1,321. UI student candidates Jeff Shipley, Dan Tallon, and Jared Bazzell followed with between 275 and 195 votes, and Bazzell was eliminated.

Turnout for the primary was around 3.8 percent. Some suggested low turnout could be tied to the feeling that candidates are not widely representative.

“When it came time to vote in the primary, I couldn’t even choose one person,” said Sara Baird, a UI library assistant who is running a write-in campaign.

She said her campaign, which largely involves word of mouth and a Facebook group, was the result of many friends asking her if they could write her name in one of the two blank spaces on the ballot.

“I don’t believe I can win,” she said. “My main goal is just to make up enough of the percentage of the vote to be announced. It would be nice just to send a message that a percentage of voters didn’t want to vote for the candidates who were offered.”



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Baird said low turnout could also be the result of people feeling they have little incentive to vote.

“It’s the only thing on the ballot,” she said of the election. “There is no big, huge crisis facing Iowa City. [But] there are open seats, so you would think it would turn out more contested.”

Other candidates offered different views on the apparent voter apathy.

“People are worn out from politics after last year’s presidential election,” Mims said. “People don’t get as geared up for local elections as we should.”

Student participation is especially lacking.

“Other than candidates and direct supporters, students don’t appear very involved,” Mims said, and the lack of involvement could stem from the fact that “most did not grow up in Iowa City and don’t plan to stay here after graduating.”

Students offered different explanations, some of which included being unaware of the campaign.

“I’m not educated enough about the candidates and don’t feel comfortable voting,” said UI sophomore Kara Mathis. “It is more of an issue of time. The election is directly in the middle of midterms.”

Jeff Shipley, the UI Student Government liaison to the City Council and a candidate in the election, said he is frustrated with the lack of student response.

“At Mayflower, students congregate at the bus stop and elevator,” Shipley said. “I would give a 30-second stump speech about the election and the effects it could have on students and about satellite locations. Some people laughed or turned the other way. There was apathy or complete uninterest.”

Shipley said candidates worked with the county to set up on-campus satellite voting stations, but noted they were under-used during the primaries.

“The chances of a student winning are low,” he said, but “the campaign should lay the groundwork for a student to get elected in the future, and it should help call the city’s attention to student ideas.”


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