Cyclone Votes: Meet ISU’s voting advocates


Voters begin the check-in process prior to voting at Hawthorn at Frederiksen Court on Election Day.

As election season grows near, so does the increase in voter-oriented programs and advertisements. Cyclone Votes hopes to make the voting process less of a seasonal topic.

Cyclone Votes is a student-focused initiative which aims to familiarize Iowa State students with the voting process and aid them in voter registration. The program is spearheaded by: Karen Kedrowski, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center; Demarquis Heard, junior in political science; Alyssa Rodriguez, a senior in political science; Lauren Rush, a senior in political science; and Mallory Tope, a senior in journalism and mass communications.

At Destination Iowa State last Friday, Cyclone Votes managed to get 48 students registered with approximately 50 additional registration forms handed out to prospective voters.

Faith Toweh, a graduate student majoring in political science, had helped get Cyclone Votes started. Toweh said part of the reason college student voter turnout is so low is due to the methods in which elections are promoted.

“You only really see voting promotion during the week before…election week and around election time,” Toweh said. “Versus if we had voting ambassadors, you would be familiar with the voting process throughout the academic year; versus just somebody telling you to vote a week before elections and you have no idea who you’re voting for.”

Kedrowski said Cyclone Votes plans to do more in regard to promoting elections along with voting ambassadors, some of which include: placing voter registration boxes in resident halls and other highly trafficked areas, CyRide advertisements and general community engagement.

The students involved each have their own demographic they specialize in increasing outreach and engagement. For example, Heard focuses on STEM students, who have a disproportionately lower voter turnout than the Iowa State average. To reach his goal, he is leading a partnership between Cyclone Votes and Science Rising– a nonpartisan movement fighting for science, justice and equity according to their website – along with recruiting and training students from STEM fields to be voter advocates.

“If people have questions about elections or anything like that, they’re not going to know who to ask or who to go to, so they probably just won’t vote,” Heard said. “But then if they know that there’s a voting ambassador who has [..] office hours every week that we can just pop in and chat with, then [they] can do that.”

Heard said ease of access to information about voting can be a barrier to many potential voters.

“So many people are at that point where just simply knowing when the Election Day is will get them to vote,” Heard said. “They just won’t make that effort to find the information themselves. So that as soon as they know, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I guess I’m not doing anything this day,’ then they’ll go.”

Cyclone Votes also offers a downloadable Canvas module to faculty to assist in the growing effort to increase student voter turnout. Kedrowski said she hopes to see an increase in the number of downloads from faculty this year in comparison to past years.

Where can I find Cyclone Votes?

Cyclone Votes will offer other informational sessions throughout the year, with voter registration sessions being offered Sept. 12-13 and Oct. 24-25, in which Cyclone Votes will not only assist in voter registration but also in ordering voter registration forms. The events will take place in the Memorial Union, but the tentative times are yet to be announced. Students interested in getting involved with Cyclone Votes should contact Karen Kedrowski, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center.

“So it’s not like information is not out there,” Toweh said. “It’s just we have to change the manner that we’re presenting it to students that makes them want to engage in the [voting] process.”

Reporting contributed by Amber Mohmand