Ames city elections see low student voter turnout


Photo:Emily Harmon/Iowa State Da

Story County hosted city elections Tuesday, Nov. 8, but the Collegiate Presbyterian Church saw little morning traffic. One voter arrived between 11 a.m. and noon. The vote also focused on the renovation of the Ames Public Library, which would cost $18 million of taxpayer money.

Taylor Diles

The voting station in the Maple commons was silent as the volunteers working there occupied themselves with reading, knitting or talking amongst themselves.

They were awaiting the arrival of any voters coming to let their voices be heard. But this only happened a handful of times. A total of 898 voters turned out to cast a ballot in Ward 4. 

This year there were only five items on the ballot: representative for the 4th Ward, two uncontested at-large representative positions, Hospital Trustees and deciding on a bond referendum to expand/improve the city library. Despite the number of on-campus voting locations (including Maple commons and the Union Drive Community Center), there was minimal turnout from students. 

“There is no student interest,” said Joan Traylor, a volunteer at the Maple polling station who has lived in Ames for two and a half years. “They only live here four years and are much less likely to be involved. Students need to have a vested interest in order to vote. For instance, during the presidential elections, the line is out the door. They feel like it directly affects them.

“If they knew how much the council impacts them, I think we would see a drastic change.”

Elma Shiel, another volunteer, has lived in Ames for 58 years.

“I don’t think the city’s messages get out for the students to hear,” she said. “[The students] are still getting into their routine, and they don’t get connected to the council, even though the council can have huge impacts on their life, potentially bringing them here for work or retirement.”

This is only one of several reasons why students didn’t vote. Some students simply didn’t know there was a vote today. Others, such as Sam Haakenstad, didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision.

“I don’t know any of the candidates,” said Haakenstad, sophomore in software engineering. “It would be unfair of me to vote.”

Stephanie Tigges, freshman in elementary education, made it to the Maple commons around 4 p.m. to cast her vote.

“I think it’s important to practice our right to vote,” she said. “We should all have our say in what’s happening.”

Traylor believes students are lucky for having a chance to cast a ballot.

“When you look around at the world today, there are a lot of places where the people are just now getting the right to vote,” she said. “Our polling stations are easy, accessible and yet not well attended.”

Despite not voting, Anna McConnell, freshman in pre-journalism and mass communication, realizes the impact the Ames City Council has.

“If I don’t vote, I have no right to complain,” she said.