UI students largely unaware of local election

Many University of Iowa students are unaware of the upcoming elections for seats in city council and school board.


Larry Phan

Coltin Ball and Katie Westermeyer are shown answering questions from Daily Iowan journalist Sam Knupp about the Iowa City elections in Iowa City on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021.(Larry Phan/The Daily Iowan)

Sam Knupp, News Reporter

Some University of Iowa students are planning to vote in the upcoming Iowa City City Council and school board election, but many are unaware of the election being held next week.

UI student Jan Burns said he knew about the upcoming election on Nov. 2 but had no intention of voting.

“I’m not an Iowa resident, so I’m not really well versed,” he said, “I’m from Puerto Rico, so there’s a difference there.”

UI anthropology doctoral student Caleb Klipowicz, a member of the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students, said he is voting in this local election. Klipowicz said he’s planning on researching the candidates this weekend to make an informed decision based on whose policies he agrees with.

Klipowicz said he wants candidates who support movements like Black Lives Matter and policies like defunding the police. While he doesn’t think the incumbents are very aligned with his preferences, he said he thinks the alternatives aren’t all that great either.

On what he looks for in a city council or school board member, Klipowicz said, “I’m pretty politically minded, so many of the candidates who are going back up for reelection, I’m considering how they handled the past year.”

Klipowicz said he cares about the election, but no one he’s seen has really stuck out and won him over.

UI first-year graduate student Katie Westermeyer, who is from and lives in Iowa City, said she plans to vote in Tuesday’s election.

On what makes a good candidate, she said, “Especially being a student here, I think just to care [about] what it means to be in a college town and how we’re supported.  Because I think our demographic might be overlooked, because we’re not considered full-time residents,” she said.

Westermeyer said she found out about the election through the UI’s Undergraduate Student Government’s Instagram page.

“I had not seen any other advertising or campaigning besides that,” she said.

Some students, however, aren’t planning to vote in this November election. Of the students who said they weren’t planning on voting, most said they weren’t aware of the election, they were from out of town, or that they didn’t think their vote would make a difference.

“I know I should [vote],” UI freshman Melina Heggleheimer said. “I don’t feel super affected by [the] Iowa City Community School District, and I guess I don’t really know what’s going on there, either.”

UI sophomore Will Tyler, an English major, was one of many who said he was unaware of the election.

“I didn’t even know they were happening,” Tyler said.

Bret Barschak, another UI freshman said, “I don’t live around here, so I’m not really too familiar with the area.”

Aaditya Deshpande, a fifth-year UI student studying environmental science, was one of many who did not know the elections were happening before being interviewed.

“I didn’t know they were happening until two minutes ago, because I got a little notification about ballots, and now you’re walking up,” he said.

On whether or not he’d vote, Deshpande said he would look into it now that he is aware the elections are happening.

“It’s hard to get a character assessment for local government, unless they’re already really prominent for some other reason,” he said when asked what makes a good school board or city council candidate.

He added that in smaller towns, it’s difficult to know exactly what he’s looking for on the local government level.

UI first-year chemistry student Olivia Dohm said she was unaware of the election, so she wasn’t initially planning to vote.

“Now that you’ve told me about it, I probably will,” Dohm said.

Joseph Verry, a fourth-year student at the UI and executive director of Hawk the Vote, said during the 2018 midterms the turnout among university students was just under 45 percent.

“That’s a midterm election, so that’s not even considering that this year is a local election, so there’s even less participation that occurs,” he said. “It’s really those very engaged, very informed students that are the ones that get out to the polls.”

Verry said this is unfortunate due to the effects of the laws and measures local governments put in place. He said local governments have a lot of control over landlord and tenant rights, homelessness, food scarcity, environmental policies, and policing.

Verry said the lack of student voter turnout can also be due to students not being well enfranchised. Since college students are getting new leases every year, he said they need to register to vote every time they move.

“It’s part of them not feeling like their voice actually belongs in the conversation, but also that there have been measures put in place to prevent them from having their voice involved in the first place.”

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