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Student voter turnout expected to remain low

BY JORDYN REILAND | OCTOBER 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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As Election Day is just a week away, officials say it’ll be another year in which students stay home instead of heading to the polls.

Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert said a lack of interest, plus the large number of out-of-state students at the University of Iowa, contributes to the voter apathy.

“The No. 1 thing that students come out and vote for is the 21-ordinance,” he said. “No matter how hard we work, they just don’t show up.”

Weipert noted the creation of a new precinct-location app by the county — Go Vote Johnson County — in hopes of reaching the younger population in addition to all voters. The app was launched earlier this month but is not yet available on the iPhone.

“Our office is always trying to find ways to get students involved. As of right now, I’d say it’s very slow on the student side,” he said. “Right now, I would say it’s nowhere near what we were hoping for or even what each party was hoping for.”

Several students at the University of Iowa are examples of just that.

UI senior Asher Bogdanove said although he voted in the 2012 presidential election, he does not plan on voting in the upcoming midterm.

“I don’t really have much of an opinion on it,” he said. “I’m just a typical college student.”

Others don’t feel informed enough to make a decision on whom they’d vote for in the election.

“I’m not voting because I don’t feel confident in either of the locations I live in I could register to vote in to make a good, informed decision,” UI senior Natasha Hutchens said.

There are a number of issues on the ballot in addition to the state races, including the Johnson County Courthouse annex and the local-option sales tax.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, youth voter turnout in was roughly 28.8 percent in Iowa in 2010.

And lower voter turnout among the college-age population is a trend that stretches across Iowa’s borders.

According to data from 2010, voter turnout among young American citizens age 18-29 was 24 percent, according to estimates based on 2010 U.S. census data. This number declined by roughly 1.5 percentage point from 2006.

Turnout in presidential elections is generally twice as high as in midterm elections among all age groups, and as a result voters don’t come to the polls in the same way during midterm years.

“In general it’s low, which is unfortunate that the 18-24 age group, with the exception of the 2008 election, has generally been significantly lower,” said Christopher Larimer, an associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa. “If they turned out at a higher rate, they could have a significant impact.

Despite the overall lower turnout, some students will cast or have cast their ballots.

“I already voted … I went back home to vote,” UI freshman Carolina Roa said. “I think we have our duty as American citizens to participate in a democratic system.”

Daily Iowan reporter Aaron Walker contributed to this story.


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