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Johnson County voting breaks records

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | NOVEMBER 03, 2010 7:30 AM

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A record number of Johnson County voters cast their ballots on Tuesday for a midterm election.

Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett reported a nearly 58 percent turnout rate, with 53,512 of 92,610 registered voters showing up to the polls in Johnson County. The previous midterm record was 56 percent turnout in 2006.

The record was expected after huge early voting numbers — a final count of 25,404 people voted early in Iowa City alone, roughly 47 percent of the total number of votes.

Polling places saw long lines on Tuesday.

“We have been busy, too busy,” said Connie Richardson, the chairwoman of the 20th Precinct, as she locked the door of the Senior Center after ushering in two potential voters right before 9 p.m. “Waits have been long.”

Long lines were not unusual throughout Tuesday, especially going into the evening hours.

Six voting locations, including the University of Iowa Main Library, Weber Elementary, and the Iowa City Recreation Center reported waits of more than 20 minutes to vote at 8 p.m.

“It’s been kind of dragging,” said Joey Gallagher, 18, who waited in line at the UI Main Library. He estimated his wait at roughly 40 minutes.

Gallagher’s estimate was echoed by many leaving the Senior Center.

“I came this afternoon, then later at 5, and finally got in line around 8,” said Tom Evans, 23, who attempted to vote three times today but left because of the lines. “I had to wait 45 minutes.”

Waits at the Main Library were consistently around 30 minutes long.

Roughly 400 poll workers were stationed throughout Johnson County — comparable to most elections — and additional laptops were sent out to speed up registration.

Slockett attributed a lot of the delay to people needing to register and change addresses before voting.

Matthias Franzen, 24, said he voted at Quadrangle on Tuesday afternoon.

“I like the feel of being in the [polling] place,” he said, adding he felt it was his civic duty to vote.

UI sophomore Rachel Strauss said she voted early to have her voice heard on the 21-only law, which was upheld Tuesday night.

“I voted because, really, I would like the bars back,” she said.

Frederick Boehmke, a UI associate professor of political science, said the increase in voter turnout can be attributed to the 21-ordinance.

“[The 21-ordinance] probably drew a number of voters that wouldn’t have participated otherwise,” Boehmke said.

Boehmke said he thinks most students who voted for the 21-ordinance probably voted for other issues on the ballot, but not at the same rate as older demographics.

Slockett said the highest turnout was among people 65 and older, with 58 percent voting early.

Young people ages 18 to 24 have increased their voting compared with previous midterm elections, he said.

In the 2007 city election, when the 21 issue was also on the ballot, 15,728 people voted — about 34 percent of the registered voters in Iowa City.

In the 2006 midterm election, there was a 52.71 percent turnout, with about 1,044,459.


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