University of Iowa students react to Iowa election results, lack of national results, voter turnout

As election results continue to come in across the nation, some University of Iowa students are proud of their candidates for winning, while others are anxious and frustrated with the outcome.


Matthew Hsieh

Voters in polling booths at the UI Campus and Recreation Center in Iowa City on Tuesday, Nov. 03, 2020. Precincts 5 and 11 were stationed in the building, with Precinct 11 having more ballots casted than Precinct 5.

Eleanor Hildebrandt and Sabine Martin

Following Iowa’s state and local races, University of Iowa students said they are surprised by the 2020 election results called in Iowa on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

As The Daily Iowan previously reported, Iowans voted in favor of Republicans in at least two out of four U.S. House of Representatives races, as well as in the one Senate race up for election this year in the state. As of Wednesday night, the Associated Press still hadn’t called the race in the 2nd district, which includes Iowa City. With the current count, less than 300 votes separate Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Democrat Rita Hart.

Iowa also voted red for the presidential race, with President Donald Trump winning with 53 percent of Iowa’s vote to former Vice President Joe Biden’s 45 percent.

Iowans made history as a state with 72.15 percent of registered voters turning out for the 2020 election. 1,618,956 registered voters voted in Tuesday’s general election, beating a 2012 record voter turnout by 29,005 voters.

On campus, non-partisan student organization Hawk the Vote continued their pledge to register students to vote, educate students on voting, and increase voter turnout despite the pandemic.

Executive Director of Hawk the Vote Jocelyn Roof said the organization took a multi-faceted, strategic approach to ensure UI students were getting out to vote.

Overall, the organization’s programs initiated more than 2,500 one-on-one conversations about voting with students this fall, Roof said, and their presentations reached more than 2,300 students on campus.

“For most of us, it was the first presidential election we were eligible to vote in,” Roof said. “I think Generation Z really wants to leave the world a better place than they found it and be change makers, and they see voting as a first step to doing those things. Electoral participation for young people was a lot higher than we have seen in the past because they’re energized about making a difference.”

In Johnson County, 86.05 percent of voters turned out with more than 84,000 people voting out of 97,739 registered voters.

More than 60,000 people voted early, either in-person or with a mailed ballot. Roof said she was proud of the turnout rate numbers in Johnson County and knew young people drove the high turnout rate across Iowa and the U.S.

“There were a ton of same day registrations, and we know that young people tend to register the same day because they tend to make the decision to vote a little bit later,” she said. “We don’t know specifics about campus or students voting, but I think the initial assumption we have is we did a good job getting the word out.”

UI sophomore Paul Eikenberry said he voted for the first time in a presidential election this fall. A registered Democrat, Eikenberry said that he voted for Biden and followed the 3rd district election closely between Democrat Rep. Cindy Axne and Republican challenger David Young because the race affected his community back home in Neola, Iowa.

Axne won with 49 percent, edging out Young’s 47.6.

“I followed that pretty closely,” he said. “I was really excited about that. I also followed [the U.S. Senate race between] Joni Ernst and Theresa Greenfield. I was pretty disappointed with that result.”

UI junior Nicolett Fodor, who is a member of the UI College Republicans, said that the group is proud of the GOP candidates who were elected or reelected Tuesday night.

Fodor is also the president of Hawkeyes for Joni, a student organization at the UI dedicated to re-electing Republican Sen. Joni Ernst.

“UIowa College Republicans and Hawks for Joni put in a lot of effort to support our candidates and get them re-elected,” she said. “We are incredibly proud of Joni Ernst, Ashley Hinson, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and Donald Trump for winning Iowa.”

UI senior and member of the Iowa City Sunrise Movement Eva Sileo said she voted for Democrats this November, listing her passions for environmentalism and opposing fascism as motivators to cast a blue ballot.

As the election results continue to come in, she said she hopes Biden wins, but the Sunrise Movement will be organizing regardless of the presidential election results.

“I voted for Joe Biden as damage control,” Sileo said. “I was not satisfied with his climate plan, but I know that it will be easier to organize and fight for the Green New Deal under his administration.”

The eco-activist is originally from Iowa City. While she voted for Hart, she said she is frustrated with the Democratic Party and the way it handled campaigning in Iowa City.

“I’m really disappointed, but I’m not surprised,” she said. “Rita Hart’s campaign was invisible here. She didn’t advertise, she didn’t do mailers. I feel like Democrats took this district for granted. COVID-19 didn’t help, but it’s part of an alarming trend of a red wave in Iowa. It’s unnecessary. I feel like their policy strategy was completely out of touch.”

Iowa went to Trump for the second time after voting twice for President Obama. While election results continued to come in on Wednesday, UI Associate Director of the Center for Diversity and Enrichment Nick Creary said students are expressing their anxiety about the election.

“Students that I have been talking with have a lot of anxiety about this,” he said. “I just spoke to one of them, an Iowa Scholar, this morning about this. She was starting to breathe a little sigh of relief… but is still very much concerned with the outcome of the presidential election and the senate.”

The diversity center has been collaborating with the University Counseling Services to create sessions for students who have concerns after the election. Creary said the goal of these sessions is to develop discussion support spaces on campus for students.

“We had been sort of working on trying to put together something to be supportive, particularly for African-American students in the wake of the protests and the set uprisings in the wake of George Floyd’s murder,” the director said. “But as we were talking about it, we just kind of realized that you know by the time we got something up and running it would be round about election time.”