116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Earlier this month while Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Governor was signing a bill into law to restrict early voting in the state, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate was encouraging early voting.
That's right. Early voting, as in early voter registration for 17-year-olds.
Not only does Iowa's state law allow 17-year-olds to register to vote, but they also can participate in a primary election if they will be 18 years old by or on the corresponding regular election.
To help develop a generation of lifelong voters, Pate's office initiated a program several years ago to encourage high schools to register at least 90 percent of their eligible students.
And here's the best part: Those schools that accomplish this receive the Carrie Chapman Catt Award, named after the Iowan who was a national leader in the women's suffrage movement.
Take a well-deserved bow, Paul Pate.
This past year, all across the United States, we celebrated the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment and women gaining the right to vote, a hard-fought battle for suffragists such as native Iowan Carrie Chapman Catt.
Fighting Catt and the other suffragists every step of the way were political leaders who argued that women didn't really want to vote. Others said women lacked the expertise or mental capacity to offer a useful opinion about political issues.
Simply put, there were those in political power who sought to restrict voting to only those they deemed capable or deserving of being able to cast a vote. Some worried that increasing voter rolls would jeopardize their own positions of power.
Pate's initiative to encourage Iowa high school students to sign up and register to vote will make a lasting impression on many young Iowa voters.
Who doesn't remember the first time they registered to vote and cast a ballot? Mine was in Ames when at 18 years of age I registered as a Democrat, much to my parents' chagrin, and in the following year cast my vote for Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential election.
For hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young Iowans, Pate's program will do far, far more to instill participation in American democracy than any restrictive voting law.
Congratulations to all those schools who have received a Carrie Chapman Catt Award and to all those students who are now registered to vote.
Laura Martin Luckert is co-founder of www.100yearsofthevote.org.