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Why Raj Patel lost

BY CHRIS STEINKE | NOVEMBER 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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[(Time required for college kids to vote) + (super busy college schedules)] x (any amount of apathy)2 = Probably not a lot of student-votes for student-candidate for City Council Raj Patel.

Guess which Iowa City voting precinct had the most registered voters for Tuesday. That's right (or wrong), the University of Iowa Main Library at 3,003.

Guess which Iowa City voting precinct had the lowest voter turnout on election day? You're right (or wrong), the Main Library at 32.

The second-lowest voter-turnout was at the Johnson County Courthouse, at 54, and the third was Quadrangle Residence Hall at 57, which has the second-highest voter-registration. If you haven't noticed, all three of these precincts are predominantly student-populated.

So, UI students did not go to the polls Tuesday, surprising perhaps no one, other than Patel, who tried his damned hardest to buck the usual trend.

Why didn't Iowa City's college kids flock to the polls? Did the "I Voted" pins and stickers prove ineffective once again? Nope, that's not the case. Those things are clearly fantastic. The predominant reason for their underwhelming turnout is, obviously, voter apathy. UI students don't care. Most of us are moving in a few years.

But even if we do care, and are aware, there are still plenty of legitimate reasons for a college kid not to vote, and they are mostly time-centric. It typically takes much more time for college kids to vote than their residential counterparts.

In order to get a better idea of a typical college voter's time commitment, on Tuesday I played the role of a reasonably aware UI student who wanted to vote. I gotta say, it was a pretty uncomfortable role to play.

I woke up in the morning and realized I didn't know where to vote. I decided I would figure it out between classes. After my first class, I scanned The Daily Iowan to see if it could tell me where to vote. There was nothing. So I set out toward downtown.

On my way, I asked a guy wearing a Bears jersey over a gray sweatshirt if he knew where I could vote. He stared at me blankly before saying "no."

I asked a semi-attractive sorority girl the same thing. She was wearing a big shirt with big letters that said, "Sorry I'm not sorry." She acted like I had asked her to mate with my dog and said nothing, walking right by me.

So I was on my own. I figured the fine folks at the Iowa City Public Library would help me out, and they did. They told me something that I, the reasonably aware college student, didn't know. Apparently, I can only vote at one place in town — the other 25 would tell me to piss off. I gave her my address, and she told me I needed to go to Mann Elementary, exactly one mile away.

I tried my hardest not to offer any cigarettes to any second-graders as I walked by the playground. Once inside the gym, I was told I needed to fill out a form that confirmed my change in residency (most reasonably aware college students change their residency every year) — but that wasn't all. To prove my current address, I needed to provide them with a government bill. By pure coincidence, I had my water bill in my backpack (saving me a ton of time). I was already registered to vote, unlike most reasonably aware college students, so that saved me another 10 minutes of documentation.

By the time I was back on campus, I had spent more than an hour trying to vote, and it could have been much longer. How many reasonably aware college students have that much time on their hands?

Not a lot. Sorry, Raj.

If our community really valued the reasonably aware college kid vote, they would make this process a lot easier.


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