Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate kicked off a new voter registration initiative Tuesday aimed at Iowa high school students. Every school in Iowa that registers at least 90 percent of their eligible students to vote will receive the Carrie Chapman Catt Award, named after the Iowan who was a national leader in the women’s suffrage movement.
“This year marks the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. I can think of no better way to mark that important milestone than by encouraging young people to get involved, while recognizing the sacrifices and accomplishments of suffragists like Carrie Chapman Catt,” Secretary Pate said.
A new state law allows 17-year-olds to register to vote in Iowa. They can also participate in primary elections if they will be 18 in time for the general election. Partnering with Project High Hopes, the YMCA Youth and Government organization and the Iowa Council for the Social Studies, Secretary Pate will help schools across the state organize and conduct voter registration drives.
“I am pleased with the implementation of the Carrie Chapman Catt Award to encourage 17- and 18-year-olds to vote. Carrie would have loved that,” said Dianne Bystrom, former director of the Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University. “Also, with the record numbers of women running for and getting elected to public office and it is important for students to learn about the women’s suffrage movement and their participation in politics.”
Bystrom worked with the Secretary of State’s Office to add a women’s suffrage section to the Elections 101 curriculum Secretary Pate offers to schools and civic groups. The free online curriculum, available at Elections101.org, gives teachers free, customizable lesson plans that cover a wide variety of elections-related topics, including the history of the Iowa Caucus and how to conduct one.
“Through the updated Elections 101, teachers have a flexible set of plans and resources that can be tailored to their students’ needs. In addition, every school should make it a goal to receive the Carrie Chapman Catt Award and put our students on a path to a life of civic engagement,” said Jack Vanderflught, advocacy director for the Iowa Council for the Social Studies.
Tuesday, September 24 is National Voter Registration Day and Secretary Pate hopes schools use that annual event to organize voter registration efforts in their schools. 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 inspire2vote.org/iowasignup.