IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) – Students in Iowa City took part in a statewide initiative, encouraging younger people to get interested in politics.
Students at West High School in Iowa City participate in the Iowa Youth Straw Poll on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (Randy Dircks/KCRG)
The Iowa Secretary of State’s Youth Straw Poll has been working to get students registered to vote, and pledging to participate in the November elections. A number of similar events were held across the state at various schools, including at Iowa City West High School.
Errol Alden, a West High School junior, spent the lunch period Tuesday afternoon with a plan: to get his classmates to vote.
“I wrote a bunch of notes for people and almost every person I wrote a note to has said something to me about: ‘oh yeah, I turned in my pledge card,’ or ‘thanks for the note, it was nice,'” Alden said.
Alden is not old enough to caucus, and he will not be old enough to vote in the November elections. But, he says that will not stop him from going to the caucus to observe, and his inability to vote won’t dissuade him from being interested in politics and government.
“Even though I can’t vote, others can vote next year,” Alden said. “And it’s a big thing to get them excited to vote, not just me. And I want to help others be excited, and I wanted to help everybody spread the word.”
Gary Neuzil is Alden’s government teacher, and he has been serving as a social studies educator at West High for more than 30 years. He organized the voting, as part of the youth straw poll around the state.
“As a teacher you want the students to develop their own identity politically, what they see is important for our government to provide for us,” Neuzil said.
Neuzil said participation numbers were up Tuesday compared to past polls, most recently in October 2019 prior to the local elections. With the caucuses six days away, he was not surprised to see those results.
“When our community gets involved politically, our students get involved politically,” Neuzil said. “And I think our students are well aware that voting has consequences and they’re a part of that system.”
Through the inspiration from educators, it is leading students like Alden to do the same.
“Just to be in politics, and go out and vote,” Alden said. “Go research their candidates. And to not just be ‘oh, I’m not going to vote this year, it’s too much work.’ There’s so many people that do that.”
Results posted to the Secretary of State’s website on Tuesday evening showed Andrew Yang with the largest vote total among Democrats, getting a 22.7% share of the vote. Sen. Bernie Sanders was close behind with 21%, followed by former Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 17% and former Vice President Joe Biden with 11.5%.
Among Republican candidates, President Donald Trump dominated the field with 91.4% of the vote, followed by Joe Walsh and Bill Weld with 5.1% and 3.5%, respectively.
Students were able to also cast votes for a variety of other races that will be contested in party primaries in June.