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High schools urged to register eligible students to vote

Carrie Chapman Catt Award for schools that hit 90%

To The Press

A new voter registration initiative aimed at Iowa high school students offers the Carrie Chapman Catt Award to those schools that register at least 90 percent of their eligible students.

The campaign was announced this week by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.

This year is the 100th anniversary of Congress passing the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote, and of Iowa becoming one of the first states to ratify the amendment. The amendment took effect in 1920, when the final state needed to reach two-thirds support ratified it.

“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,” Pate said in a news release.

Carrie Chapman Catt was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement, and spent her early years growing up in Charles City. Her girlhood home has been preserved and an interpretive center maintained by the National 19th Amendment Society in Charles City.

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, Pate said he will help schools across the state organize and conduct voter registration drives.

Dianne Bystrom, former director of the Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University, said, “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.”

Bystrom said, “It is important for students to learn about the women’s suffrage movement and their participation in politics.”

She also noted the increased number of women running for and getting elected to public office.

Bystrom worked with the Secretary of State’s Office to add a women’s suffrage section to the Elections 101 curriculum offered to schools and civic groups. The free online curriculum, available at, gives teachers customizable lesson plans that cover a wide variety of elections-related topics, including the history of the Iowa Caucus and how to conduct one.

Tuesday, Sept. 24, is National Voter Registration Day and Pate said he 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