Government

Republicans sweep Iowa Youth Straw Poll

Nearly 40,000 K-12 students chose their candidates Tuesday

From left, seniors Anna Reinhart, Olivia Schirm and Zach Johansen count straw poll ballots in Adrian Evans’ AP US Government class at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
From left, seniors Anna Reinhart, Olivia Schirm and Zach Johansen count straw poll ballots in Adrian Evans’ AP US Government class at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — If kids could vote, they would elect Republicans up and down the Iowa ballot, according to the Iowa Youth Straw Poll conducted Tuesday.

Almost 40,000 K-12 students in more than 300 schools participated in the unscientific straw poll, which was sponsored by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.

“The key thing is we just want to inspire them to be voters … and I’m trying to tell them to tell their parents to go vote,” Pate said Tuesday at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School, where he spoke to an Advanced Placement government class.

In an interview with The Gazette before votes were tallied, Pate said the poll could offer glimpses of the political views of students’ parents ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

“This is a straw poll, it’s not scientific,” Pate said. “But it is a snapshot of the day they picked up the form and filled it out. A lot of it is informed by their parents, their peers and social media.”

As of 6 p.m., results showed about 46 percent of students voted for Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in the gubernatorial race, putting her ahead of Democrat Fred Hubbell, who received 38 percent of the vote.

Third-party candidates captured about 15 percent of the vote: Libertarian Jake Porter received about 7 percent and Gary Siegwarth of the Clear Water Party of Iowa netted 8 percent.

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Students across the state also voted in district U.S. House races. Republicans easily swept three of those races — Christopher Peters (42 percent) over incumbent Rep. Dave Loebsack (38 percent) in District 2, Rep. David Young (45 percent) over Cindy Axne (37 percent) in District 3, and Rep. Steve King (53 percent) over J.D. Scholten (34 percent) in District 4. In those U.S. House races, third-party candidates on average received about 6 percent of the vote.

The closest contest was between Rod Blum and Abby Finkenauer for the District 1 seat. The race had a margin of 342 votes, with Blum coming out ahead with 47.4 percent to Finkenauer’s 44.6 percent. About 8 percent, or 965, of students voted for Libertarian Troy Hageman in that race.

Molly Duffy / The Gazette

At Kennedy High School — which is in Iowa’s first district — 17-year-old student Cassie Lehmann kept score on her classroom’s white board as her peers tallied ballots.

A Democrat, she was disappointed by the results — her high school classmates favored incumbent Reynolds for governor by seven votes, and Finkenauer narrowly won with a one-vote margin out of 925 total votes.

“This is surprising because high school kids are, typically, more likely to vote Democrat,” government teacher Adrian Evans told the class. “That’s not what we’re seeing here.”

Haley Hager — state youth director for NextGen America, a nonprofit focused on increasing young voter turnout for Democrats — said, despite the straw poll’s results, many young people “are fired up like never before to vote for progressives.”

“We know that, after talking about the candidates’ stances on college affordability and health care, young voters support candidates like Fred Hubbell, Abby Finkenauer, and Cindy Axne,” Haley said in a statement.

Tuesday’s results weren’t what Lehmann and some of her Kennedy classmates hope to see on Nov. 6 either, which comes just a day after Lehmann’s birthday.

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“I’m going to be 18 on Nov. 5,” Lehmann said. “I’m excited. I know who I’m going to vote for.”

Like Lehmann, 84 percent — more than 29,000 students — who voted in Tuesday’s straw poll said they plan to register to vote when they turn 18. Only 16 percent said they would not.

Lehmann’s teacher said he just hopes the exercise has helped his students — many who already are or will be eligible to vote within the year — understand the voting process.

“This year, with the vibe in the country right now, I think it’s important kids get the chance to get their feet wet,” said Evans, who has taught at Kennedy for 16 years. “ ... They are paying attention to this, they are totally invested in this. It’s hopeful — we’re creating the next generation of voters.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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