Sharp increase in early voting


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Experts and campaign representatives differ over whether record early voting turnout will affect Tuesday’s 21-ordinance vote.

The county auditor’s voting numbers reveal there were far more county voters this year than in 2007. The number of early voting ballots returned — which include satellite voting — is currently at 23,505, compared to 7,668 in 2007. In Iowa City, 18,286 people requested ballots this year, up from 7,931 in 2007.

Nick Westergaard, a spokesman for the anti-21 ordinance group 21 Makes Sense, attributes the increase in voter turnout from 2007 to the difference in election types — 2007 was a general city election, while this election is a midterm election. In the 2008 presidential election, more than 27,000 people voted early in Johnson County and more than 25,000 requested early ballots in Iowa City.

Matt Pfaltzgraf, the campaign manager of Yes to Entertaining Students Safely, the anti-21 group, said he thinks the community voting stations were drawing in more voters because of the accessible locations.

The campus voting stations were easier for students to use because they were a one-stop shop for them to both register and vote, he said. Now that early voting is over, he said his group is planning to use the campaign resources to go after voters who support the 21-ordinance.

A recent study conducted by UI political-science Associate Professor Frederick Boehmke showed community members 18 and over were split almost down the middle over whether to repeal the ordinance.

The study was compiled after students of Independent Study class in the political-science department polled 228 Iowa City residents.

According to the study, the older the voter, the more likely that person was to vote “No.” The survey also revealed women were more in favor of voting “No” than men.

The study also revealed three-fourths of voters said they thought the 21-ordinance would result in a negative economical effect for downtown, and 62 percent said the number of house parties would increase.

Almost all of the 25 precincts have seen increases in the number of voters; from four more voters in Precinct number 17 to 1,135 more requesting ballots in Precinct 5.

Only three precincts saw a decrease in the number of voters.

And it’s difficult to determine what the results of early voting will be, Westergaard said. Students could be voting “No,” and community members could be voting “Yes.”

“It’s not that simple to assign all the ‘Yes’ votes to the campus and all the ‘No’ votes to the community,” he said.

Political-science Associate Professor Sara Mitchell said she thinks early voting doesn’t affect the outcome of an election, unless it’s a close presidential race.

Today is the last day to vote early, with ballots available at the Auditor’s Office, 913 S. Dubuque St., from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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