IOWA CITY — In the wake of the March for Our Lives movement, which saw thousands of young people jump into politics by advocating gun control laws in response to February’s mass school shooting in Florida, a national progressive organization is hoping to activate more young voters in Iowa.
NextGen America held 150 “youth action” events, one of which was Tuesday at the University of Iowa, to register young voters and protest President Donald Trump.
“We are engaging students to remind them about the upcoming election in November,” said Haley Hager, NextGen’s state director in Iowa. “We’re going to do everything we can. That’s why we are starting so much earlier this year campaigning to be really successful and win in November.”
Will Simons, a spokesman for NextGen America, said he believes people under 35 are the largest section of eligible voters, even out numbering baby boomers.
Millennials, defined by the Pew Research Center as Americans born between 1981 and 1996, are close to overcoming baby boomers as the biggest generation, The Gazette reported last week. The generation after that, which includes the recent high school marchers, may be even larger.
More young voters say they’ll for sure vote in November than have in the last two midterm elections, and they increasingly would rather have Democrats than Republicans in control of Congress, a poll released Tuesday by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics shows.
More than a third of young Americans eligible to cast ballots in November — 37 percent — say they’ll “definitely be voting” in the elections that will decide control of the House and Senate, according the survey of 18 to 29 year olds.
That’s higher than the poll recorded at about the same point in 2010 and 2014, the two most recent midterms.
But expectations of a surge in voting by America’s youth have been quashed in the past. Turnout in presidential election years is always higher and even former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — two candidates who had a strong appeal to young voters — were able to draw just more than half of this age group to vote in their first elections.
And the founder of NextGen America, hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, has caused waves even among Democrats with the campaign he launched last year to advocate Trump’s impeachment. Some Democrats have warned that the impeachment rhetoric could haunt the party in the midterms, according to the New York Times.
A spokesman for the Republican Party of Iowa did not return a phone call requesting comment.
About 43 percent of UI students come from outside Iowa. Those eligible to vote this November will find they need to bring additional information to the polling place under Iowa’s Voter ID law, which began phasing in this year.
Hager said she had a few questions Tuesday from students about the Voter ID law, but it hadn’t been a big issue, at least not so far.
Carrie Nierling, elections deputy with the Johnson County Auditor’s Office, said the new Voter ID law doesn’t change voter registration requirement, but those without an Iowa license will have a different experience at the polls.
“If they don’t have an Iowa diver’s license, they can show a out-of-state driver’s license but then they would also have to show that proof of residency. So like that utility bill or a lease or something like that,” Nierling said. “Previously if they were already registered, they didn’t have to show anything.”
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Bloomberg news service contributed to this report.