On Nov. 19, Creston High School (CHS) and Southwestern Community College (SWCC) students will join others around the state in casting their votes for both a Democratic and Republican candidate as part of the first statewide Iowa Youth Caucus.
Organized by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office and the state Democratic and Republican parties, the free event is designed to educate Iowa high school and community college students about the process and why Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status plays a vital role.
The Union County Republican and Democratic parties will coordinate the local event, which will begin 5:30 p.m. at CHS. Registration and a dinner begins at 4:30 p.m.
During the evening, local volunteers will walk students step-by-step through both a Republican and Democratic caucus. As the students participate, they will vote for a candidate in each party. Local coordinators will then tally the results and report them to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, which will release vote totals later in the evening.
So far, 120 combined SWCC and CHS students have pre-registered for the event.
Todd Jacobson, CHS history teacher, said many of the students in his government classes are nearing voting age, already paying taxes and registering for the selective service, and this event gives them a hands-on opportunity to learn more about the governmental processes they are becoming more engaged in.
“I love the idea,” Jacobson said. “This really ties in well with where I’m at in my curriculum.”
Jacobson said it’s also an opportunity for his students to learn about something many citizens don’t pay much attention to.
“Not a lot of people find out about the nomination process,” Jacobson said. “They’re just really in the unknown as to how exactly we get down to one candidate for each party.”
Marcia Fulton, who serves with Carol Smith as co-chairwoman of the Union County Democratic Party, said she’s excited for students to have the opportunity to participate in such a teachable moment.
“One of the things we’d really like to do is to start getting youth involved so that as we age, we can step aside and let the youth come in and take over,” Fulton said. “We’ve had some wonderful kids involved in campaigns, and they have so much energy and so much excitement.”
Joe Owens, chairman of the Union County Republicans, said from his experience attending caucuses, he also sees a need for more interest among young voters.
“It’s a need throughout our state,” Owens said. “When you go to your county caucus, you don’t see a whole lot of young people there.”
Owens said while only students can participate in the voting, the mock caucus isn’t just for youngsters. Adult volunteers are welcome at the event, as well as anyone who want to come and watch — maybe to learn a thing or two themselves.
“We are open to anyone from the community that’s willing to volunteer their time and effort,” Owens said. “The more people from the community that we get, the better it will be.”
Owens said volunteers can contact him anytime before Nov. 19. Students who have not pre-registered can also register the night of the event. Owens said there will also be a booth where those of voting age can register to vote.
The statewide Iowa Youth Caucus is part of a larger effort by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to engage more voters in next year’s Iowa caucuses. With an increased focus on younger voters, Pate has organized the mock caucus in conjunction with Caucus 101, a seven-step online course created by Iowa high school teachers for Iowa high school teachers to use to teach their students about the caucus process.
Caucus 101 was released last month with the approval of Iowa’s Democratic and Republican parties and the Iowa Council for the Social Studies. Along with the online curriculum resources, the curriculum includes short videos submitted by presidential candidates and directed toward the youth in the state. So far, nine candidates have submitted videos:
• Bernie Sanders
• Bobby Jindal
• Chris Christie
• Hillary Clinton
• Jeb Bush
• Martin O’Malley
• Mike Huckabee
• Rand Paul
The curriculum and the videos can be accessed by anyone at www.Caucus101.com. The videos are also available on the Iowa Secretary of State’s YouTube channel.
Union County Youth Caucus
Registration and dinner: 4:30 p.m.
Start time: 5:30 p.m. (estimated finish: 8:30 p.m.)
Location: Creston High School, 601 W. Townline St.
Joe Owens: 641-202-9407
Marcia Fulton: 641-782-2490
Carol Smith: 641-202-6192.