Monday, November 02, 2009

Iowa City Election: Slow Weekend Voting

The Townies Don't Care Either

Last week's early voting on campus showed how disinterested students were in getting out to vote for fellow students Jeff Shipley and Dan Tallon. But weekend voting has illustrated that the Lifelong Residents and Taxpayers are either confident in a Susan Mims-Terry Dickens landslide, or just plain bored.

Sunday saw only 288 voters at four sites, vs. 502 the Sunday before the 2003 election. That was the last "normal" Iowa City election with no ballot issues and the last city election with early voting Sunday instead of Saturday. (Saturday voting on home game days just doesn't work.)

1999 is the record low turnout year (7,842 votes, a record likely to stand just two more days), and that year saw 502 weekend voters at two Saturday sites. 1999, of course, was the year that the election only got interesting AFTER it was over and Steven Kanner wound up two votes ahead of Charlie Major.

This year is likely to be... significantly more decisive.

Iowa City has rarely seen true landslides in November city elections, because the primary system culls the weakest candidates. The biggest margins have been in years without primaries, as in Ross Wilburn's 71-28 thumping of the eccentric Karen Pease in the 2003 District B race.

The last at-large blowout was in no-primary 1991 when we schizophrenically, simultaneously, re-elected socialist Karen Kubby with 80% and conservative Bill Ambrisco with 66. Then there was a big drop to Paul Egli at 33% and John Crabtree at 21. So, a two to one gap between second and third place. (Compare that to the nearly five to one gap between Dickens and Shipley in the primary.)

I don't remember much about Egli; he ran again in 1993 and finished last in the primary. Crabtree was a progressive guy and was active in the Democrats. Unfortunately for him, the lefties were distracted by a library levy, Jim St. John's district race against Susan Horowitz, and a sense of urgency for re-electing Kubby. So the relatively unknown Crabtree was left hanging while Kubby picked up a lot of bullet votes and set a record for most votes in city history that stood till 2005. Crabtree, meanwhile, is continuing his progressive activities at the Center for Rural Affars in Nebraska.

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