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IC council candidates differ on early voting campaigns

BY KRISTEN EAST | NOVEMBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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One day out from this week's Iowa City City Council election, candidates say they're emphasizing early voting in different ways.

According to the Johnson County Auditor's Office 1,499 votes were cast as of Nov. 6, making it the second-lowest early voting turnout in the last 10 years.

Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science, said that while early voting results can't show how individual people voted, voting locations may show some indication of how well a candidate is doing.

"Maybe if you had a turnout closer to campus, that may be an indication that [Raj Patel] is doing well," Hagle said.

And encouraging students to vote has been a top priority for Patel, an at-large candidate and former UI student.

"We have been pushing absentee ballots pretty hard in student-heavy neighborhoods where it's usually tough for people to get to the voting stations," Patel said.

Hagle said having an early turnout is always a good thing, especially in a City Council election.

"[Voter turnout] is pretty low for these things, even if you have a contested election, a couple at-large [candidates]," Hagle said. "It's not a presidential or midterm-year election."

However not all candidates are unconcerned with early voting numbers.

At-large candidate Jarrett Mitchell and District A candidate Steve Soboroff are utilizing social media, including Facebook and Twitter instead of accepting many donations.

"I don't want to be accountable to anyone," Soboroff said. "Everybody's got signs, direct mail, and spending a lot of money. I don't know if [not doing that] is going to help or hurt me."

Soboroff is spending $500 of his own money on campaigning; Mitchell is spending roughly $300.

"Our main effort is mostly word of mouth and people talking to each other," Mitchell said. "We're breaking barriers of isolation. This campaign is explicitly about person-to-person contact."

District A candidate Rick Dobyns and at-large candidates Matt Hayek and Michelle Payne said they've focused a lot on sending out fliers and calling and meeting people.

Payne said her campaign will text voting reminders on Election Day, and it has asked several local newspapers to print voting announcements.

Dobyns, who ran for City Council six years ago, said he remains a "traditional" candidate.

"I call up people myself to get out the votes, especially in my voting precinct," he said. "As a candidate, you just try to get to everybody before they vote."

Hayek said he is mixing traditional campaign and social-media methods to connect with voters. Hayek, who raised more than $12,000, said campaign donations have helped significantly.

"Social media are essentially free, but to reach people who you know have voted in campaigns, that requires financial resources because you have to pay postage for mail," he said. "They're both helpful."


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