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Voters may see 21-ordinance again

BY MITCHELL SCHMIDT | MARCH 09, 2010 7:30 AM

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Despite which side community members fall on regarding the proposed 21-ordinance for bar entry, they may agree on one thing: Timing is key.

If the council passes a 21-only ordinance, opponents will have 60 days to collect 2,500 signatures of registered voters in Iowa City. If they meet that mark, the city clerk must verify that all the signers are registered in Iowa City, said City Clerk Marian Karr.

After a petition is verified, the City Council has three options: adopt the referendum, basically reversing its own ordinance; add the issue to the November ballot; or hold a special election to vote just on that issue.

However, with a special election comes costs for establishing voting stations and printing ballots, leading to a hefty price tag. The city last held a special election in May 2009 on the local option tax.

The election cost approximately $36,000, and Karr said another special election over the proposed 21-only ordinance would likely be about as costly.

Dan Tallon, a University of Iowa junior, noted that while signatures for a petition cannot be collected until the ordinance is passed by the Iowa City City Council, he expects residents to mobilize in response.

“I think there’s going to be a big movement,” said Tallon, who ran for City Council last year. “No matter what, there will be a good showing.”

For UI senior Jeff Shipley, it seemed like a vote during November would be the best idea. The UI Student Government liaison noted that a summer election would pose challenges.

“It would be hard to get students to mobilize,” he said, and raising awareness for the issue would take time. “It doesn’t just happen overnight.”

Additionally, some opponents of the ordinance are concerned that a special election may take place near the end of the UI’s 2010 spring semester; a time when students are occupied with finals and moving.

Shipley agreed, saying a key factor in a special election would be when it occurs.

“Timing is very, very important,” he said.

Whether the vote takes place in a special election or is put on the November ballot, officials expect the number of registered voters in Iowa City to skyrocket.

This would follow what occurred in 2007 — the previous time the 21-ordinance came to vote — when the registration of 18- to 24-year-old voters increased by 4,483 between Oct. 9 and Dec. 7, representing 87.7 percent of all newly registered Iowa City voters, according to the Johnson County Auditor’s Office.

Tallon hopes if a public vote is held, it takes place during the regular November election to avoid unnecessary costs.

“It’s irresponsible to put it on the special election,” he said. “This needs to go on the general ballot.”

Some UI students shared Tallon’s belief.

UI freshman Logan Edwards also felt a vote should take place along with the November election.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to spend that extra money on it,” she said.

While she was not an Iowa City resident in 2007, she said, she will be against the ordinance if it comes to a vote.

“I think [bar-entry age] should stay the way it is,” she said.


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