DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate encourages Iowa high schools to conduct voter registration drives on Tuesday, March 30. The date coincides with the 50th anniversary of Iowa ratifying the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.
Every school that registers at least 90 percent of its eligible students to vote receives the Carrie Chapman Catt Award, named after the Iowan who played a vital role in securing access to the ballot box for women across the nation with the passage of the 19th Amendment.
“It’s crucial for young people to learn that registering to vote and participating in elections is the best way to make sure your voice is heard,” Pate said. “My office is working with schools across the state to help them register eligible students. The Catt Award hopefully gives them a goal that the students can work together to achieve.”
State law allows 17-year-olds to register to vote. There are almost 2,000 17-year-olds currently registered in Iowa. Partnering with Inspire2Vote, Secretary Pate’s Office helps schools organize and conduct voter registration drives. The deadline for schools to qualify for this year’s Carrie Chapman Catt Award is this school year is April 16.
“School voter registration day is a great opportunity to connect with students and foster a culture of civic engagement among our next generation of voters,” said Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo.
Teachers from Iowa high schools support the effort.
“At UHS, we feel it is essential for students to learn how to participate in their communities and one of the best ways to be involved in the process is by participating in elections. Our students created a non-partisan Political Action Club to help encourage students to learn about politics and ways to get involved. Registering students to vote was the first major project this club had its sights on and last year they met their goal to register 90% of eligible seniors to vote! By registering our seniors, students were also able to talk to seniors about the importance of participating in the upcoming elections. We want to help students understand that voting is a positive habit to develop and it’s not as scary as it seems! We hope that by registering our seniors, it is one less obstacle they will have to overcome when they get ready to vote in local, state, or federal elections.” Anne La Pietra, an Urbandale High School social studies teacher, said in a released statement.
Some teachers also plan to adapt their lesson plans on that day.
“I believe on March 30th I will present lectures and lessons on the historic significance of the voting amendments, especially the 15th, 19th, 24th, and especially the 26th Amendment. I will also try to enlist support and maybe register some Juniors that are 17 years of age,” Josh Heitman, a social studies teacher at Burlington Notre Dame High School, stated.
Schools interested in being considered for the Carrie Chapman Catt Award and receiving information and resources about how to conduct a voter registration should visit the Secretary of State’s website or email Kendall.Antle@sos.iowa.gov. State law requires high schools to conduct two voter registration drives per school year.
Governor Reynolds plans to issue an official proclamation declaring Tuesday, March 30 as “Iowa High School Voter Registration Day.”