BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A straw poll conducted of potential student voters at the Fort Madison High School has President Donald Trump leading among all presidential candidates.
Of the 224 votes cast at the High School Monday morning, 58 were for Donald Trump (25.9%), while 46 or 20.5% went for Democrat Bernie Sanders. Other top vote getters were former Vice President Joe Biden with 8.5% of 19 votes; and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg caught 15 votes or 6.7%.
Democrats Tulsi Gabbard and Elizabeth Warren each garnered 13 votes, while Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who visited the school on the day he announced his candidacy earlier this year, got 12 votes. Andrew Yang was the only other candidate to garner at least 10 votes.
The poll was conducted after students, who will be eligible to vote in the 2020 general election, registered to vote through the Iowa Secretary of State’s office website.
This was a statewide effort and the goal is to get 90% of the students who are eligible to vote registered,” said FMHS history teacher Mike Ehlers.
“If we get 90% registered, we get the Carrie Chatman Catt award. That’s being put on statewide, but part of this is students becoming more civic-minded,” Ehlers said. “We talk about Iowa Common Core and it’s standards and this ties right into that being a participatory member of society,” Ehlers said.
Catt was an Iowan that was a national leader in the women’s suffrage movement.
Ehlers said supporting Trump has been hard for some of his students to vocalize.
“Some of my government kids are afraid to be vocal about their support of Trump because of the backlash they would get here in SE Iowa,” Ehlers said.
“Some mentioned that Trump was responsible for bringing down the head of ISIS over the weekend and that they switched their vote to him.”
High School Principal Greg Smith said the students registered to vote and then were presented with a number of other questions, including whether they plan on voting, and if they are currently aligned with any candidate. The information then goes to the Secretary of State’s office to track how many students were registered.
“My take is they just want kids to sign up. Most kids don’t vote because they just don’t know the process to sign up, and they don’t want to mess with it,” Smith said. “So now they’re getting them to sign up and then they can just walk in and do it,” Smith said.
He said the process also brought up identification issues for some of the students that need to be rectified before they can register.
Matthew Meierotto, a senior said the process was helpful.
“I haven’t looked much into politics, My parents are Democrats, but I haven’t looked into either side of things. I’ve always been interested about the process. When they go around and give speeches I like to watch that,” he said.
Meierotto, who’s just short of his Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouts of America, said he heard Trump speak at a Boy Scout Camp Jamboree in 2017 at the Summit Bechtel Reserve.
“I think he was the first president to ever come to one of those so I thought that was pretty cool.”
Dryden Dorothy said it was simple to register at the school, but he didn’t understand why young people thought it was such as inconvenience.
Quinton Ross registered to vote through the system and said he thinks Trump is doing a good job.
“I’m strickly going for Trump because I think he’s a nice man, doing a decent enough job right now, and I haven’t heard any issues happening since he became president,” Ross said.
Tanner Brown also said Trump was doing a good job and he was impressed that Trump made a trip to North Korea. Brown also said Trump’s push on China has been good for the country
“No one was expecting those things,” Brown said.
Arren Harrington, another senior said he registered that morning and said it was very simple process.
Harrington said he supported Trump because of his stance on gun control and tariffs on some goods like electronics. But he said tariffs on grain has had a negative impact on the local economy.
“He’s not changing the country drastically as in like taking away our guns and stuff, and he’s fighting for our civil rights. He’s keeping it the way it should be. Keeping it the way it’s always worked best.”
Madelyn Swigart, a junior, said she wasn’t sure who she was voting for, but was leaning to the Democratic ticket.
“It’s all kinda new to me. I think I lean more toward the Democratic side because of stances on things like abortion, and definitely the environment,” Swigart said
“Global warning is a big thing and it’s important to me that the next president fix things because it’s getting worse and worse.”
Lauren King, another junior who registered Monday, said the group registering is a good idea.
“I think it will get more people to register. I don’t think the youth sees this as a big deal and they don’t care that much,” she said.
She said it’s just now hitting her that she will be able to vote. She said she hasn’t identified herself with any party.
“My dad is a Trump supporter, because he likes some of his views, but he doesn’t agree with everything.”
The straw poll also favored Sen. Joni Ernst garnering 81 votes (36.2%) of the student’s support with Democrats Kimberly Graham getting 51 votes and Theresa Greenfield getting 40.
In the U.S. District 2 Representative race, Democrat Rita Hall had an astounding 118 votes (52.7%) while Bobby Schilling had 62 votes and Marinanette Miller-Meeks got 44 votes.
Out of the 224 that filled out the straw poll, 191 (85.2) said they will register to vote when they are old enough. 33 or 14.8% said they would not.