With college students home from school and a primary election around the corner, Iowa State University student Grace Johnson is working with Students Demand Action to register voters and encourage support for candidates that favor “common sense gun laws.”
“The Iowa team is definitely going to be pushing for more awareness that there is a primary because a lot of young people just aren’t aware of that,” said Johnson, 20. “Especially with all the hype around the caucuses, they don’t realize that there’s kind of a mini one coming up.”
At a caucus, Iowans make their preferences known for presidential candidates and conduct local party business. In a primary election, however, actual voting takes place with ballots, many of which will be mail-in for the primary.
On June 2 — or earlier, if you vote by mail — Iowans will vote for local, state and federal candidates running on the Democrat or Republican ticket.
Beginning Thursday, county auditors across the state will begin mailing absentee ballots to voters who request them.
The Iowa secretary of state’s “Voter Ready” guide lays out in detail the information required to register to vote, election dates in 2020 and changes made in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Due to the pandemic, mail-in voting is encouraged by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to minimize the number of people at polling places on Election Day. Pate has not ruled out sending ballots to voters ahead of the November general election, despite false claims by President Trump and other Republican leaders that voting by mail opens the process up to fraud and abuse.
Johnson, the founder of Iowa State’s Students Demand Action chapter, said her small Iowa team, known as a “virtual field office,” has already connected through video conferencing platforms not only with each other, but other student leaders across the country.
“We’re really seeing a lot of success and progress in mobilizing our new volunteers and getting new people,” Johnson said, as she works from her parents’ home in Clive.
They use “Rock the Vote” to quickly register new voters and help existing voters update their registration if needed. Because students are no longer on campus, in order to vote in the upcoming primary, their registration must reflect their current address, which likely is different than what their campus address.
Virtual field offices were established in all 50 states, she said, with a special focus on the battleground states of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.
Students Demand Action is a division of Everytown for Gun Safety, a nationwide non-partisan gun violence prevention group.
Everytown, founded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, has committed at least $1.5 million to register 100,000 young voters across the country.
Johnson said she first got involved with gun safety advocacy through her mother, a Moms Demand Action volunteer.
When Johnson arrived at Iowa State, “I noticed there was a definite lack of gun violence prevention in the Dems club, so I figured why not start my own?”
Emphasizing the non-partisan nature of Students Demand Action, she said, was important in connecting with the student body, many of whom grew up around guns.
“We’re registering everyone to vote,” she said. “We’re supporting any candidate who supports common sense gun laws regardless of party because at the end of the day we realize that we all just want to keep our friends and family safe, no matter what party we align with.”
To learn more about Iowa’s Students Demand Action chapter, email Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Elizabeth Meyer
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