Early polling numbers show higher turnout in Cedar Rapids runoff election

Local professors of psychology and political science suggest that the national sexual harassment scandals may have an impact on voter turnout. (CBS2/FOX28)

Voters in Cedar Rapids are back at the polls on Tuesday to decide on a new mayor and city council member. Mayoral candidate Monica Vernon is going head to head with Brad Hart, and Justin Shields and Ashley Vanorny are vying for the District Five City Council seat.

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller said that when the early voting numbers came in prior to Tuesday, the turnout was already better than he anticipated. Miller said 3,300 people people had already cast ballots by Dec 5--three times what they had four years ago.

"About 23 percent of [the runoff election's early voters] never voted in the November election," Miller told CBS 2 news on Monday. "So I find that curious as to why that happened."

Bruce Nesmith, Lipsky Professor of Political Science at Coe College, says it is unusual to have a larger outpouring of voters in a runoff - especially in this case, where there is no apparent polarizing factor. He mentioned that both mayoral candidates are similar in race and social class; both have been involved with city and civic affairs for a long time; and neither have large, distinctly different stances on issues. However, he did offer one guess as to why there was a strong voter turnout for Vernon.

"For two months now we’ve been dealing with an outpouring of information about sexual harassment," said Nesmith. "And while there’s no reason to believe that Brad Hart has been involved in that at all, I think that it’s one possibility is that it may have awakened latent feelings about having a woman candidate in power."

Dennis Dew, associate professor of psychology at Mount Mercy University, told CBS 2 News that he also thinks that sexual harassment scandals could be driving some turnout.

“Among some voters there is a sense of lack of control," said Dew. "Voting in this local election might be a way to try to exert some control and therefore feel more relevant.” He added that there is little controversy about these candidates.

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