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« Iowa Field Getting Crowded | Blog Home Page | Election Results »

IA Youth Turnout Gets Preview

IOWA CITY -- Far from the hubs where media will cast their attention as polls close tonight, this Iowa college town heads to the polls today to determine whether or not underclassmen will be permitted to go to bars. The measure, to which bar owners adjacent to the University of Iowa campus are showing their opposition in force, could have ramifications far beyond the Thursday night boozing crowd.

While many Iowa students will be home for winter break when the January 3rd caucuses roll around, some see the huge voter turnout in Iowa City as evidence that the youth vote may be interested and engaged enough to actually caucus. As of Monday, when early voting closed, more than 8,000 early votes had been cast, a huge increase over the record high, set at 4500 in 2005, according to the Des Moines Register.

University of Iowa professor David Redlawsk estimates that, while previous city elections featured just a few hundred students, this election may bring more than 6,000 student votes, presumably heavily opposed to the measure, which would prohibit 19- and 20-year olds from entering bars after 10 p.m.

Seemingly every four years, some candidate claims they will outperform others among younger voters. Those forecasts virtually never pan out, as the youth vote has yet to materialize in significant numbers in an Iowa caucus. The Iowa Democratic Party estimates that, in 2004, 18-34 year olds made up just 10% of caucus-goers, while those over the age of 65 made up 32% of attendees.

This year's election in Iowa Falls, in which younger voters are apparently turning out in droves, could foreshadow a stronger presence of younger voters than previous years. Still, many have claimed the mantle of the younger voter's candidate, and almost always at their peril. One former strategist for Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, asked by Politics Nation to chat about the benefits reliance on the youth vote brings, responded with a lesson many campaigns have learned in past years: "What youth vote?"