Students across the state of Iowa cast their votes for U.S. presidential and U.S. congressional candidates Tuesday.
Although the Youth Straw Poll Election doesn't contribute to any real nominations, results show the stance of Iowa's youth that may mark their ballots in the first caucus in the nation.
Students in Ballard, Collins-Maxwell, Colo-NESCO, Gilbert and Nevada school districts had varying results, but the trends across the board were strikingly similar.
The candidate with the highest number of votes was sitting President Donald Trump, who received 243 votes. However, a majority of students in each district voted for the Democratic candidates on the ballot. Few votes were cast for the three other Republican candidates in every district but Collins-Maxwell, where there were none at all.
Of the 715 total students, 429一exactly 60 percent一voted for Democratic candidates. The top eight candidates were Bernie Sanders, who received 93 votes, Joe Biden with 51, Andrew Yang received 43, Pete Buttigieg一96, Elizabeth Warren with 34, Tom Steyer received 28, and Kamala Harris received 13 votes.
Here's how they matched up in each district:
Nevada High School government teacher Andrew Kleeman said involvement in this year's straw poll was about 30 percent of the student body, which is good considering this is not an election year.
“During an election year it's much more popular,” Kleeman said. “I would say next year there will be more excitement generated based on all the media publicity the campaigns create.”
Engagement is even higher at other schools. At Gilbert High School, government and history teacher Heather Schurr said 277 of the 513 students in the school, over 50 percent, participated in the straw poll.
“It was actually a pretty representative sample overall considering half the electorate doesn't vote,” she said.
Nevada High School senior Isabelle Humpal-Pash, 17, said the straw poll election gives her the opportunity to learn more about the candidates in the national and state races before she votes in the general election next year.
“I really liked it because it gave me a chance to see how many options we had,” she said. “It's really important to me because I will actually be of voting age when this comes around so it was helpful to be aware of all the candidates.”
Although Humpal-Pash will be 18 before the Iowa caucus in February, this will be the first time that residents of Iowa can register to vote and vote in the caucus and primary election at age 17, if they will be 18 by the general election in November.
The change was part of a bill passed in 2017 that went into effect Jan. 1 of this year. Kevin Hall, communications director for the Iowa Secretary of State's office, said while it won't have much of an effect for the upcoming local elections there could be a big difference in next year's polls.
Hall said the new law has already shown a major increase in voter registration. The number of active registered voters in Iowa has increased by 78 thousand since November 2015, and about 4,000 of those are 17-year-olds.
“That has leaped up since we made this big push to the high schools,” Hall said. “Any school that registered over 90 percent [of their students] we are giving the Carrie Chapman Catt Award.”
The award's namesake is an Iowa State University alumna who was a national leader in the women's suffrage movement.
This generation of new voters is more politically active and aware than some have been in recent years, Schurr said. Her students are highly interested in politics largely due to active current events, which she describes as “ripe for the picking.”
The exciting political climate makes the change to the voting age even more significant, she said.
“I've been telling all my students if this applies to you, please do it,” she said. “They are incredibly interested in the process and what's going on with the impeachment inquiry and that kind of thing.”
According to Kleeman, the mock election makes students more aware of the election, candidates and their opportunity to vote.
“I think it's just good for the students to number one, get to know who the candidates are and second, to know that their civic responsibility to vote is important,” he said.
According to Humpal-Pash, the straw poll election has an important role to play in convincing young voters that this responsibility matters. If all the citizens who don't vote chose to go to the polls, she said, they could surely influence the outcome of an election.
“Even if you're just one voice of thousands upon thousands, you need to put in your vote otherwise you won't have the chance to make the change in the government that you want to,” she said.
The results of the statewide mock election offers as much value as the voting itself, Humpal-Pash said. Seeing how other Iowa students voted helped her gauge the opinions of potential voters her age.
“I thought it was really cool to be able to see the results and know this is not just my school, it's kids from across Iowa,” she said, “so I got to hear what my peers were thinking and opinions from people I had never even met.”