Race climaxes in BV, 600 new voters

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Too close to clip in SL barbershops

From barbershops to daycare centers, this Presidential election in Buena Vista County you get a totally different picture than what you might hear through the national media.

That stands to reason when you consider the fact that Buena Vista County has bucked nationwide Presidential voting patterns ever since the first President Bush was elected in 1988.

Buena Vista County faces a huge voter turnout for this election, based on absentee ballots turned in so far. County Auditor Karen Strawn, who is herself running unopposed for reelection Tuesday on the Republican ticket, said as of Monday 1,890 absentee ballots were turned in compared to the previous record 1,165 in 2000.

"Either we have a much higher turnout than normal based on absentee ballots or else we're not going to have anybody else left to go to the polls because everyone has voted absentee," Strawn said.

Strawn said there are 600 new registered voters in Buena Vista County since Jan. 1. She credited The New Voters Project, that has heavily mined Buena Vista University, and Americans Coming Together for much of the increase in registrations. Strawn said voter awareness seems to be at a high.

Other Iowa counties are seeing similar increases in absentee voting. "There are quite a few counties that are having double the number of absentee voters," Strawn said.

Despite the fact that it took several weeks to find out who was President after the last election in 2000, that was not the case in Buena Vista County. George W. Bush pulled a solid 54.59 percent compared to 41.36 percent for then Vice President Al Gore.

Only 67.62 percent of county eligible registered voters cast their ballots in 2000. The turnout was even lower in the 1996 Presidential election when 65 percent of registered county voters turned out. Republican challenger Bob Dole had 45 percent of the countywide vote while incumbent President Bill Clinton lost in Buena Vista County with 42 percent of the vote.

Reform Party candidate Ross Perot garnered 10 percent of the vote with 827 votes.

Buena Vista County also went Republican in 1992 when a solid 78.32 percent of eligible voters cast 9,206 ballots for President. President Bush defeated Bill Clinton that year in Buena Vista County, with 42 percent to Clinton's 36 percent. Independent candidate Ross Perot surprised a lot of people with his 1,946 votes or 21 percent of county voters casting ballots for President.

The county once again went against the grain in 1988. Democrat Michael Dukakis beat President George H.W. Bush in the county.

Buena Vista County backed Ronald Reagan in 1984 and in 1980, Reagan received 5,272 votes to Jimmy Carter's 3,468.

In 1976, 78.4 percent of county voters turned out. Again, counter to national trends, a total of 5,084 voted for Gerald Ford, with challenger Jimmy Carter receiving 4,188 votes.

In Buena Vista County in 1972, George McGovern was clobbered in a landslide by Richard Nixon.

Like previous elections, an echoing concern this year is that the nation faces more important problems both at home and abroad than what is reflected in the national media and in campaign advertising by both parties.

"Unfortunately we're in this war," said Dan Hansen, a customer Friday in Lyle's Barber Shop on Erie Street in Storm Lake. I don't think we should change Presidents in the middle of the stream. I'd hate to bring a new guy in."

Hansen, who farms east of Storm Lake, seemed to have a pretty realistic perspective about the demands of the Presidency.

"I don't know why anybody would want the crazy job. It doesn't matter what President we have in there," Hansen said.

In any event, Hansen says his wife, Carol, will probably cancel his vote out. "For years we've canceled each other out," Hansen said.

Hansen has a Bush sign in the yard. His wife put up a Kerry sign that blew over. Hansen sees a possible analogy brewing.

"We don't talk politics at home," Hansen admitted. "Otherwise, I probably wouldn't get any meals."

Lyle Peters, owner of Lyle's Barber Shop, seems equally philosophical.

"They all seem like the same once they get in there anyway," Peters said.

Darold Veer Husen, a former Storm Lake businessman who was getting a trim at Daryl Schade's barbershop on Lake Avenue Monday, took a critical eye of the media's spin on the election.

"You have to have the debate and then you have to have the intellectual pharisees tell us what they said. They think we're not smart enough to figure it out for ourselves. The news media has tried to dominate the election and tell us what we should know."

Schade wasn't making any bets either way on how the Presidential election would turn out.

"All I know is it's going to be a pretty tight race," Schade said. He also noted that sports, politics, and religion were the three things best not discussed in a barbershop.

Even at Gingerbread House day care, the election was the topic of discussion.

Chris, age 9, said he likes President Bush. "He seems like a nice President," Chris said.

Dalton, also 9, seems to have the makings of a future politician since he has a pretty good grasp of domestic policy. "I think we should raise tax for people so they can get insurance," said Dalton, a Kerry backer. "His face looks like a greyhound dog's," Dalton noted.

Emma, 6, backs the President "because he's a good man."

Josh, 8 1/2, backs President Bush "because I've known him longer than Kerry and I just think he'll win. He talks clearly and he's a really nice person. And I know where he lives, Washington, D.C."

Poll Results: On Oct. 25, the Reuters/Zogby poll had Bush leading Kerry in Iowa 47-44 percent; by Monday, an eight-point shift had occurred to Kerry leading 50-45. Slate Magazine gave an election scorecard on Friday with Kerry having 272 electoral votes, Bush 266. On Monday it was 286-252 in favor of Bush.

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