State officials: No problem with voter registration event at Summit


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State authorities said pairing a voter-registration drive with free cover at a downtown bar does not violate any campaign laws.

The Summit Restaurant & Bar, 10 S. Clinton St., plans to attract young Iowa City residents and University of Iowa students to register to vote, offering free cover between 9 p.m. and midnight tonight.

And as long as businesses hosting political events don't offer anything to a candidate and none of the candidates are sitting councilors, they are acting inside the law, said Megan Tooker, director of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

"Based on my assumption that it's a voter-registration event [and not a campaign event], I don't see that it would violate any laws," she said.

A manager of Summit said attendees will not be required to register to vote.

Mike Porter, the former owner of Summit, said because students make up such a large percentage of the Iowa City community, he wants to make them aware of the election and involved in the process.

"This race, in particular, has some candidates who obviously would represent students well," Porter said in a Facebook message. "It is essential to note that supporting student issues is almost always beneficial for the majority of the community."

Porter noted Summit has never hosted a voter registration event in the past.

The Summit is endorsing three candidates: Mark McCallum, Steve Soboroff, and UI student Raj Patel.

Soboroff said he supports the Summit hosting the event because he thinks students don't feel welcome in the downtown community. and tonight's event could allow them to feel more included.

"As long as they're spending money in Iowa City, as long as they're students, they're part of a community and they should be allowed and encouraged to vote," he said.

And though Summit is offering encouragement in the form of free cover at tonight's event, Soboroff said he doesn't see it as a bribe.

"I don't see them bribing — this is a thing they are doing to get people encouraged to sign up [to vote]," the host and owner of KCJJ radio said.

And McCallum also said he supports the voter-registration event because it is a way to help support one another.

"I'm trying to be pro-student," said McCallum, a local developer. "And I'm trying to support a student candidate."

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