Beginning Monday, UI students will have the opportunity to register and vote simultaneously in advance of the Nov. 6 city election. As most people are well-aware, this election will also decide the fate of a proposed ordinance banning anyone under the age of 21 from the Iowa City bars. In preparation for the vote, anti-ordinance organizations have formed at the UI and have collected enough signatures to establish satellite voting locations at several campus sites, including the Main Library and a handful of dorms. Students are notorious for their lack of turnout in any given election, but the satellite locations will, the organizers say, boost the student vote.
Atul Nakhasi of the Student Health Initiative Task Force, an organization on campus opposed to the ordinance, hopes that more than 2,000 students will vote in the election. By having satellite locations available at dorms typically occupied by students either unregistered in Iowa City or not registered at all, Nakhasi thinks easily accessible voting stations will lead to greater student turnout. "My goal is to have the 21-ordinance defeated by Oct. 26," Nakhasi said, referring to the last day of satellite voting on campus.
The same-day registration advantage at the satellite locations should certainly increase the odds of preventing the passage of the ordinance. Instead of having to register almost two weeks in advance, then find the correct polling station on Election Day, students can accomplish both in just minutes throughout next week. Though the satellite voting can be accessed by any Iowa City resident, its clear intent is to corral unregistered UI students who are opposed to the ordinance but not likely to vote otherwise. The idea of early voting will, hopefully, inspire students to continue exercising their civic duty in the future. While this particular vote has clear consequences if students do not vote, perhaps the outcome of this issue -- however it turns out -- will instill in all UI students the potential importance of their individual vote in every election.
In securing the satellite voting stations, students have demonstrated their ability to energize their peers. Hopefully, those organizations will continue their efforts next year in the Iowa caucuses and general election. If all students placed the same value in choosing our elected leaders as UI students do in choosing their right to $1 you-call-its, our opinions might be better represented in Des Moines and Washington, D.C. With any luck, the voter drive for the Nov. 6 election is just the beginning.
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© 2007 The Daily Iowan via U-WIRE