Youth Voter Engagement Summit Works to Increase Students’ Civic Involvement

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Students from across Iowa participated in the Youth Voter Engagement Summit at the Iowa State Capitol Saturday. This is the third annual summit and the first to incorporate high school students in the event.

“It only makes sense if they’re being able to vote on those primaries if they’re going to be 18 years old voting in those general elections,” University of Iowa Senior Gustav Stewart said.

A new law passed earlier this year allows 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections as long as they will be 18 years old by November.

“That’s crucial, when you look at say this presidential election, when you have over a dozen candidates, they can have a chance and have their voice heard,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said.

Pate said Iowa saw an 8 percent increase in young voters during the last midterm election.

“We had about 38 percent of the young people out there voting and that’s normally about 30, so an 8 percent increase is pretty substantial,” Pate said.

This meant there was an increase in young folks taking on issues that impact them the most.

“I don’t want $100,000 student loans when I get out of college, I want to know there is a good job for me when I get out of college, perhaps they’re looking at quality of life issues for them, you know, what am I going to have if I’m going to stay in Des Moines,” Pate said.

“Personally, I’m a biker so if the road isn’t … generally if there’s potholes and various things like that, it’s going to be hard for me to bike and get around,” Stewart said.

Dozens of presidential hopefuls make stops in Iowa and Stewart hopes that encourages young people to educate themselves and vote.

“The younger voting block, that’s a part of elections, and if you’re able to get that vote into elections, that’s going to make a difference, whether it’s education funding or any of the other topics,” Stewart said.

Pate continues to encourage youth voters and will speak at the 91st Iowa FFA Leadership Conference in Ames on Monday. There he will ask all eligible attendees to register to vote. Voter registration forms will be distributed by each school’s FFA advisor.

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