[Source: “If you haven’t done so already, go vote today,” Press Citizen, 7 May 2013, by the Press Citizen Editorial Board]
Today is the third election this year in the Johnson County area.
In February, a little more than 8 percent of eligible voters in the Iowa City Community School District came out to approve a new revenue purpose statement for the money brought in through a local option sales tax.
In March, about 6.67 percent of the eligible voters in the county came out and made history by electing the first Republican to the Board of Supervisors in more than a half century.
And today, voters from throughout the county will come out to decide whether to approve a $43.5 million bond for a proposed justice center. (Back in November, 56 percent of voters approved a $46.8 million bond for a larger version of the proposed facility, but that number fell short of the 60 percent supermajority required.)
As of Monday morning, early voting statistics suggested that the electorate was showing more interest in today’s special election than it showed during the supervisor election in March. But the turnout numbers still are low and, as such, suggest that local voters may indeed be experiencing some election fatigue.
We think there still is time before the polls close at 8 p.m. today for county residents — however fatigued — to become educated voters about a topic that has been a major point of discussion and disagreement for more than a decade.
There is still time:
- To visit http://jcjusticecenter.com to read the arguments from the “yes” side.
- To visit www.votenojusticecenter.org to read the arguments from the “no” side.
- To visit www.jco-justice.com to look through the statistics that University of Iowa professor emeritus John Neff has been collecting on the jail for the past decade.
- And to visit www.press-citizen.com/onthesamepage to read through a variety of responses to three basic questions about the proposal.
The debate over the proposed justice center has brought out many justifiable concerns about incarceration rates and conditions in Johnson County’s jail and courthouse.
But we think conditions have reached a point that this project can’t wait another year or two. Maintaining the status quo means that, any given day, more than 50 Johnson County inmates are being farmed out to jails in neighboring counties. That costs the county in the neighborhood of $1 million a year or more.
The inmates who are farmed out don’t have ready access to their lawyers. Nor do they have ready access to their families or any other support system. And it’s the inmates who are going to be in the jail the longest who tend to get sent farthest away.
So we hope those county residents who are interested in providing a safer and more secure environment for county employees — as well as for innocent-until-proven-guilty jail inmates — will come out and vote “yes” today.
We likewise hope — regardless of the outcome of today’s vote — that proponents and opponents alike will continue to work together to address any racial disparities among local incarceration rates and to ensure that the county’s many jail alternative/diversion programs remain well staffed and fully funded.