A new Voter System Scorecard by Rock the Vote indicates that Iowa ranks second in the nation in engaging young voters. That’s the good news. The bad news is if Iowa’s overall percentage was a letter grade, the Hawkeye State would earn a mediocre D.
Rock the Vote is the nation’s leading advocacy and education organization geared toward building political power for young adults. The organization’s Voting System Scorecard measures state laws and policies in the areas of voter registration, casting a ballot and young voter preparation.
… Rock the Vote’s analysis of the 50 states’ voting systems reveals that young Americans are being left out of the democratic process because of outdated voter registration practices, barriers encountered when trying to cast a ballot, and our country’s failure to adequately prepare them for active citizenship. …
To download a copy of the report, click or scan the QR code or text “REPORT” to RTVOTE (788683)
Iowa trails only Washington state for overall highest score, earning 13.9 out of a possible 21 points or 66 out of a possible 100 percent score. Since the national average was 41 percent, it’s clear that Iowa has risen above the pack. It’s also clear that considering some policies included in the measurements might further improve youth voting.
When looking at registration in the states, the scorecard took specific note of automatic registration, permanent and portable registration, same day registration, online voter registration and restrictions on third-party registration drives.
Since Iowa does not provide automatic voter registration of its citizens (no state currently does), the state lost three possible points. An additional three points was lost for not allowing online registration. So, from a possible 11 points, Iowa earned 5 — one for permanence and portability, three for allowing same-day voter registration and one for allowing third-party registrations.
During the 2008 General Election, 45,000 Iowans used same-day registration. Nationally, according to U.S. Census surveys, roughly 15 percent of voters who were not registered at the time of the 2008 General Election indicated they missed a registration deadline.
Casting a Ballot
The scorecard measured the difficulty voters would encounter when attempting to cast a ballot on a day other than a traditional election day as well as voter identification, residency and military or overseas balloting laws.
Iowa nearly aced this section, earning maximum points for not requiring voters to show identification at the polls, for satellite voting stations and other convenience efforts, for allowing absentee balloting and for allowing students to cast their ballots in their college precincts. Iowa lost one-tenth of one point in measurements related to military and overseas voting accessibility, but it is unclear from the report accompanying the scorecard why the state was docked.
Iowa’s big advantage over many other states in this section, according to the scorecard, is derived from the state’s existing practice of verifying identities at the time of registration and not at the polls and voters’ access to a wide variety of ways to cast a ballot, including no-cause-required absentee balloting. During the current General Assembly, the Republican-controlled Iowa House, acting on a campaign platform by 2010-elected GOP Secretary of State Matt Schultz, passed a bill similar to Indiana’s restrictive voter ID law. Shortly after House Republicans sent the bill to the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate, each of Iowa’s 99 county auditors, regardless of their political affiliation, came out in opposition to the proposal.
Young Voter Preparation
Measurements related to preparation of young people for active civic participation included state curriculum requirements of civics education and evaluation as well as the ability of young voters to register in advance of age 18.
Iowa students do take high school civics courses, which earns the state two points; but the state received no point for pre-registration of 16- or 17-year-olds. To date, only eight states allow eligible citizens to register a year or two before age 18 and have the registration automatically go into effect once legal voting age is reached.
“Voters who pre-registered have been shown to turn out at higher rates than peers who registered to vote for the first time upon or after turning 18. Moreover, in jurisdictions that have embraced pre-registration, elections officials often engage in significant outreach and education efforts in high schools,” states the scorecard report.
The Rock the Vote metric looked specifically at elections and voter registration, but it is worth noting (especially with the 2012 caucuses a few months away) that 17-year-old youth who will turn 18 prior to the November general elections are allowed to fully participate in the caucus process. According to the scorecard report, this type of activity, which some states use during primary contests, does not meet measurement requirements.