MHS students take part in Youth Straw Poll

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

Trump and Sanders for the win. 

Those were the statewide and local outcomes of the Fall 2019 Iowa Youth Straw Poll on Oct. 29. More than 300 high schools and over 21,000 students took part in the event, led by Iowa Sectary of State Paul Pate. 

The students were asked to vote for their choice of presidential candidate, U.S. Senate, and U.S. Representative for Dist. 1. 

Locally, Phil Gilkerson’s government class, made up of juniors and seniors, facilitated the Straw Poll at Monticello High School. Ballots were handed out to all students in grades ninth through 12th. The government students then tallied the results. 

With four Republicans running for president, Donald Trump received 149 votes. Of the 17 Democrats running for office, Bernie Sanders got 42 votes. 

In the presidential race, 163 students voted for a Republican; 127 voted for a Democrat. 

“With 17 Democrats to choose from, it divides the vote,” said Gilkerson. “But everyone got at least one vote as well.” 

Sen. Joni Ernst won the race for U.S. Senate, with three Democrats also running. 

Republican candidate for U.S. Representative Dist. 1, Thomas Hansen, received the most votes from MHS students. Current Representative, Abby Finkenauer, came in second with 118 votes. Republican candidate Ashley Hinson, third, with 57 votes. 

Statewide, Finkenauer won the race. MHS has taken part in the Youth Straw Poll several times over the years, with the most popular taking place in a presidential election year. The recent Straw Poll was primary-based. 

“It’s good for students to see a ballot, something similar to what the actual format is,” said Gilkerson. 

Another question on the ballot asked students if they plan to register to vote when they’re old enough. (You can register to vote at 17 ½. You have to be 18 years old to vote.) At MHS, 239 students said yes, they plan to register to vote; 57 said no. 

Gilkerson works the Youth Straw Poll into his classroom curriculum, talking to his students about the process of voting and the political parties. He said they also dive into why Iowa is in the spotlight so much surrounding the first-in-the-nation caucuses, which draw many of the political candidates to the state. 

“We talk about how political stances are formed and the issues and platforms favored by each party,” explained Gilkerson. “We look at the history of the parties and how they’ve changed over time.” 

In terms of voter influence, especially in the age of social media, Gilkerson said it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many students are busy with homework, jobs, and extra circular activities that they don’t have time to watch the news or even watch a political debate. 

“Social media helps keep them informed,” said Gilkerson. 

After the Straw Poll results come in, the government students review the results to see how different regions of the state voted. 

“Young people are making their voices heard in record numbers, and I think they will be a significant voting bloc in the 2020 elections,” stated Secretary Pate. “I hope the candidates are paying attention.” 


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