At the end of a rainy Thursday, early voters trickled in to Iowa City’s Broadway Neighborhood Center. They walked past a bedsheet-sized red, white and blue banner that read VOTE TODAY, and under an archway of red, white and blue balloons. Inside was director Sue Freeman, armed with red, white and blue “Broadway Votes!” stickers. “Hi,” she cheerily greeted them. “Are you coming to vote?”
This was the third time early voting has been offered at the center. For days, volunteers had been knocking on doors, urging people to come. Voting is not always easy, Freeman told me. Maybe you don’t have a way to get there. Maybe you have to work. Maybe you’ve never done it and you’re nervous.
Just more than 58 percent of eligible Johnson County voters turned out in the 2008 election, according to the county auditor. That’s not far from the national average. But some types of people are much more likely to vote.
U.S. Census Bureau surveys from the 2008 election show citizens with advanced degrees voted at rates double that of those who didn’t graduate high school. Fifty percent of voters making less than $20,000 a year cast a ballot, compared with nearly 80 percent of those who made $100,000 or more.
Lived in your home five years or longer? You were 10 percentage points more likely to vote than if you’d just moved in. Homeowners were more likely to vote. Renters, less likely.
“Your vote counts!” read a sign hung in the center’s entryway. Two damp University of Iowa law students returned from knocking on doors. “A lot of people said they’d voted early already,” one said.
By 6:30 p.m., about 75 people had voted — fewer than Freeman had hoped for. But that number included a lot of first-time voters, so that, at least, was a success. Over at the voting stations, 52-year-old Eddie Pryor clipped an “I voted” button to the bill of his cap. He shook his head when I rattled off some voting statistics. “I remember when they didn’t have that option,” he said. “Are they too lazy, or what?”
Pryor’s no first-timer. He’s been voting since he was 18. “I’m a taxpayer,” he said. “I want to know where my money is going.” He won’t be sure which candidate will be handling that money until after the Nov. 6 election, of course, but he’d made sure his own voice was heard. It took just a few minutes.
Then he headed back out into the drizzly gray.
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