During the first full week of early voting in Johnson County, when students were flocking to early voting sites by the hundreds and even the thousands (over 1300 in a day at Burge dorm), the million dollar question among Johnson County politicos was: are they marking the whole ballot? Or are they just voting on the bars?"
Just to remind my out of town readers: the Iowa City bar issue dominated the Johnson County political landscape to the exclusion of almost all else this fall.
The main campus precincts are dorm-dominated 3 and 5, apartment-dominated 11, 19 and 20, and mixed town-gown 21. (11 and 19 also have some senior housing but are mainly student.) There's also one dorm, Mayflower, in 22, but that's a townie-dominated precinct. 1 and 13 also have significant chunks of student apartments, but 1 also has the large Oaknoll senior complex.
With that in mind, let's look at the Iowa City voting patterns. It's weird for the very LAST thing on the ballots to get the most votes, but that's what happened here with the bar age issue. Also included are the governor's race, which got a handful more votes than the Senate race, and Justice Baker's retention (or lack thereof), which was listed first and got a few more votes than the other two.
|Precinct||Voters||Bars||Governor||Baker||Bar under||governor under||Baker under|
|IC02 Hall of Fame||930||908||915||804||2.4%||1.6%||13.5%|
|IC05 UI Library||1497||1477||1054||602||1.3%||29.6%||59.8%|
|IC07 West High||552||502||539||436||9.1%||2.4%||21.0%|
|IC08 Weber School||1563||1493||1548||1317||4.5%||1.0%||15.7%|
|IC09 All Nations||1056||1020||1039||894||3.4%||1.6%||15.3%|
|* IC12 Grant Wood||1139||1005||1131||970||11.8%||0.7%||14.8%|
|IC13 City Transit||674||656||646||533||2.7%||4.2%||20.9%|
|IC14 Mark Twain||1205||1161||1188||1047||3.7%||1.4%||13.1%|
|IC15 SE Jr High||897||870||885||786||3.0%||1.3%||12.4%|
|IC19 Rec Center||1302||1285||1109||760||1.3%||14.8%||41.6%|
|IC20 Senior Center||1229||1205||1050||739||2.0%||14.6%||39.9%|
|IC21 Horace Mann||1092||1067||1006||779||2.3%||7.9%||28.7%|
|* IC22 Shimek||1505||1347||1369||1079||10.5%||9.0%||28.3%|
|IC24 City High||1451||1409||1411||1202||2.9%||2.8%||17.2%|
(* The undervote for the bar issue in 12 and 22 is misleadingly high; those precincts include some rural voters who were not able to vote on it. That rural vs. city breakout isn't ready yet; note that 12's under vote on governor and judge is extremely low while 22, with a dorm in it, is relatively high.)
Typically a high-profile ballot issue in Johnson County will see about a 10% undervote. That was the figure in the 2000 jail bond vote. In higher-turnout 2008, 12.5% of county voters left the last item, the conservation bond, blank.
But almost no one ignored the bar issue. Taking out the two statistically confusing precincts, the undervote was a mere 2.8%. When it averages that low, there's little room for variation; it was down around 1 percent in the core student precincts.
To compare, the under vote for president or, in a normal off-year, governor, is usually about a half a percent. That jumped to 6.5% skipping the governor's race this year. It was down in the normal 1% ballpark on the high turnout east side, but in the student precincts it peaked at nearly 30% in precinct 5, whic is almost entirely dorms and Greek houses (the UI president's house is the most notable exception).
In general, the townie precincts had a handful more votes for governor than for the bar issue, while the student precincts had significantly more votes on the bar issue. In the core student precincts, about 1300 more votes were cast on the bars; in the rest of town about 300 more ballots were marked for governor.
With the Supreme Court fight, judicial voting was up across the state. looking at typical numbers for Johnson County, we saw a 43% undervote (county-wide) for the top Supreme Court justice in the 2008 presidential. No justices were on the 2006 ballot but, the top Appeals Court judge saw a similar 45% undervote.
This cycle, the Supreme Court undervote dropped to just under 24 percent, barely half of the usual level. Students actually behaved more typically than townies, though probably not in normal patterns; increased general interest was offset by some number of bar-only votes. It's also worth noting that the biggest campus early voting sites were very early, the last week of September, long before the anti-judge campaign got any traction. (That campaign was also near-invisible in the People's Republic; as I said yesterday the first time I saw the NO ACTIVIST JUDGES signs was in the photo of the Vander Plaats victory party.) The townie undervote, meanwhile, dropped to the 13 percent range.
Note that a straight ticket ballot would have skipped both the judges and the bar issue, unless the voter then proceeded to finish the back half contest by contest.
In any case, there weren't enough skipped votes to affect the statewide outcome, and even if there had been it would have been about a wash. Student votes were a bit less Democratic than the county as a whole. I don't attribute this to a new generation of conservative students. Instead, I think the bar vote pulled in people who weren't motivated by party politics, and to the extent that they did vote, followed the parental lead (parental party preference is still a very strong indicator of which way young voters will lean). Geographically, we're talking conservative leaning Chicago suburbs.