Norris, ISU student leaders encourage Iowans to vote

Steven Brittain

With Iowa’s general elections quickly approaching, both political candidates and ISU student leadership organizations are hoping to see a dramatic increase in the number of young people who vote.

U.S. House candidate John Norris, of Ames, was on the ISU campus on Tuesday to promote the importance of college students getting registered to vote in the November elections.

Norris, a Democrat, is running in Iowa’s 4th District.

“We are trying to make a real effort to reach out to young voters and find out what issues they are concerned the most about,” he said. “Medicare and Social Security are important issues right now; however, they are important with the older voters.”

The reason issues such as Medicare seem to dominate the political arena is because older citizens are generally the ones who vote, Norris said. If young people want issues such as the budget cuts and tuition hikes addressed, then they have to get out and vote for the people who will meet their needs, he said.

“Young people are much more vested in the long-term issues such as the environment and access to education,” Norris said. “They are worried about if there are going to be opportunities for quality jobs, or if they are going to be forced to leave the state to find good work. Their concerns are very real.”

The students not only of Iowa State, but of the other universities in Iowa, do have the power to make a significant impact in the upcoming elections, Norris said. In fact, he said some of the races will probably come down to only a few hundred votes.

“It’s one of the main reasons I’ve been trying to talk with so many young people,” Norris said. “Their opinions are extremely important, and they could potentially make up a large portion of the vote.”

Since 1999, Norris has served as chief of staff to Gov. Tom Vilsack, where he helped lead Iowa’s critical efforts to improve student achievement, increase teacher compensation, protect Iowa’s groundwater, help victims of abuse and promote economic opportunity for Iowa’s business people, workers and farmers, according to Norris’ Web site at

As chief of staff, Norris managed more than 25 government agencies and thousands of state employees, according to the Web site.

The Inter-Residence Hall Association is one of several organizations that are taking steps to make ISU students aware of the issues and how they can go about making a difference in the political process, said Keith Twombley, IRHA president.

“We’ve just begun to get started on our voter registration drive, which will involve us making registration information available for students online and through the residence hall front desks,” he said.

IRHA is also in the process of setting up a broader voter initiative with the Government of the Student Body. The student leadership is looking for ways to expand the registration drive throughout campus Twombley said.

“Voting is the only option we have as students,” he said. “Talking and complaining to the Regents isn’t doing anything about the continuous tuition hikes and budget cuts. The only way we can dispel these problems is to vote them away.”

T.J. Schneider, GSB president, said GSB representatives will be on campus in early October helping students to register to vote.

“We will be there with registration cards,” he said. “[GSB Vice President] Joe [Darr] and I are really concerned about student voting because they are talking about another large tuition increase that will be hitting students; the only way we can have a voice is by voting.”

GSB does not endorse any particular candidates, but Schneider said student voters hold power in numbers if they choose to exercise their right.

“There’s 28,000 students here, and that is a significant amount of votes,” he said. “Even if only half of those people voted, that would still be 14,000 votes. That’s where we as students can be effective, and politicians will pay attention.”

Students should pay attention to elections, Schneider said, because the representatives make the decisions regarding tuition.

“We need to vote for representatives concerned with higher education,” he said.

Schneider said he knows students are often busy with classes and other activities, making voting a low priority.

“Also, sometimes students don’t know when or where or how they can vote,” Schneider said. “We want to explain the details to them and make the process as easy as possible.”