Before last week’s city elections, there was another statewide voting event going on.
The Iowa Youth Straw Poll involved students from many schools all over the state, including some of our schools here in Story County.
“The straw poll is a great way for students to get into the practice of voting, make decisions for themselves and be able to have some fun doing it,” said Wes Stover, high school government teacher at Collins-Maxwell. “The students also look forward to learning the results.”
Stover had students in grades nine-12 vote while in line for lunch. In all, he said, 74 kids voted. And he wasn’t surprised by the results, especially when it came to the fireworks question of “Should your city/town allow the sale and use of fireworks?” Collins-Maxwell students voted 58 yes, 11 no, with five undecided. “You have to figure the fireworks would be popular with the kids,” Stover said.
When it came to favorite subject in school, C-M students had social studies leading by a large margin; favorite state school, Iowa edged out Iowa State, 31-29; and favorite superhero went to Batman.
Barb Baumgardner, who teaches U.S. government at Ballard High School, included a number of things in her straw poll. She not only polled students on the things that were in the statewide vote — fireworks, favorite school subject, favorite state university and favorite superhero — she also had her students weigh in on the local elections in the Ballard area communities.
If her students had been deciding, for example, Jason Bohning would have won the mayor’s race in Cambridge over Steven Kovarik, who was elected the new mayor in the city election.
If her students had been electing the City Council members for Huxley, David Kuhn, who was elected in the city election, would have lost that seat to Kevin Deaton. But otherwise, students picked Rick Peterson and Greg Mulder, just as the voting population did.
When it came to the official state straw poll for youth, Ballard students strongly supported fireworks being allowed, chose science and math in a tie as favorite subjects, picked Iowa State heavily as the favorite state school and had a tie between Batman and Captain America as the favorite superhero.
“It was interesting to learn about the voting process,” said Ballard student Emma Weller. “The sample ballots on the Story County auditor’s website were helpful, because I was able to familiarize myself with the ballot format before voting in class.”
Student Addison Brekke said Baumgardner has done a great job teaching her the simple skills needed to be an active, engaged citizen. “Voting was way easier than I expected, and I was pleasantly surprised to receive a cookie after casting my vote for mayor and City Council.” The cookie must be a Ballard thing!
Colo-NESCO teacher David Greenfield said with this being a non-traditional election year, the only real political question in the straw poll was the one about fireworks, which like most other students, his students also voted “yes” to allowing. Like Stover, he wasn’t surprised by that. “Colo-NESCO is a small, primarily rural school district and I think the results are reflective of that. I also realize that many of the arguments against allowing fireworks in Iowa often have a small impact on teenagers,” he said.
But like other teachers, Greenfield believes the straw poll is a great way for students to become involved in the political process.
“Even though there were no statewide political races this year, it is good for students to form opinions on political issues. Last year, Colo-NESCO students also participated in the straw poll, which featured many contested elections, including the presidential election. The straw poll is one of many activities that students will take part in throughout the year.”
Outcome of the statewide Iowa Youth Straw Poll, from the Office of the Secretary of State
• Should your city/town allow the sales and use of fireworks? YES, 76 percent; NO, 13 percent
• What is your favorite school subject? MATH, 26 percent; SCIENCE, 19 percent; SOCIAL STUDIES, 18 percent
• What is your favorite state university in Iowa: IOWA, 49 percent; IOWA STATE, 34 percent; UNI, 9 percent
• Who is your favorite superhero? BATMAN, 15 percent; WONDER WOMAN, 12 percent; SPIDERMAN, 12 percent