Students Flocking to Polls for 21-only Vote in Iowa City

By Greg Hennigan and Jami Brinton, Reporters


By Aaron Hepker

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Students are being pulled to the voting booth to voice their opinion on Iowa City’s controversial 21-only ordinance.

“I came to work out,” said Teresa Albright, 18, a freshman at the University of Iowa. ”Then they had early voting. I knew what I wanted to vote for. “

Albright, like 19-year-old Hilary Heugh from Elgin, Illinois wants to repeal Iowa City’s minimum bar entry age.

“I’m here for the 19 ordinance to change the bars back to 19,” Heugh said.

A long line of students waited to vote at a satellite location set up at the University of Iowa’s new recreation and wellness center Wednesday afternoon.

As reported in Wednesday’s Gazette (you also can read the story here), students are expected to be a force to be reckoned with in the 21-only vote.

Early voting statistics are backing that up.

On Tuesday, 1,319 people voted at Burge Hall, a dormitory on the University of Iowa campus. That’s the most votes ever at a satellite voting location in Johnson County, breaking the old record of 945, also at Burge, in the 2007 election, according to the Auditor’s Office.

Incidentally, the 21-only issue was on the ballot in 2007. It was defeated 58 percent to 42 percent with the help of strong student turnout.

“I think it’s clear that students are driving the early, in-person voting here in Johnson County,” said county Auditor Tom Slockett.

Any Iowa City voter could have cast a ballot at Burge on Tuesday, so it’s not as if every vote came from a student. But Slockett said Wednesday the majority of all those who have voted so far in this year’s election have been of the student-age population. (There were 340 voters at the UI’s Phillips Hall on Monday.)

Early voting will continue up until Election Day, Nov. 2. Most of the satellite sites are on or near the UI campus due to a record number of student-driven petitions to place satellite voting locations on campus.

“Since the students are turning out at the sites we’ve had so far, we don’t have any reason to believe that they won’t continue to turn-out at other university locations,” Slockett said.

Pro-21 only supporters say they aren’t surprised by this record young voter turn-out so far this election; in fact, they say they expected it. They believe the satellite locations scheduled for late October will attract a more diverse voting population that will swing statistics in their favor.

Under the 21-only ordinance, which went into effect June 1, people younger than 21 are not allowed in non-exempt establishments with liquor licenses after 10 p.m. The minimum age previously was 19.

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