Catt Center works with students to boost voter engagement


Daniel Jacobi II

Voting booths sit empty in Buchanan Hall on the morning of Tuesday Nov. 8, 2022 at Iowa State University.

The Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics staff and students spent the last spring and summer working to boost student voter turnouts for the 2022 midterm elections at Iowa State.

Director Karen Kedrowski worked alongside three students majoring in political science to boost voter engagement.

“Voting is the bedrock of democracy – and it’s a habit,” Kedrowski stated in an email to the Daily. “I know that most college students are first- or second-time voters, and they need help to understand the mechanics of voting. The Student Innovation Center, with its amazing resources and programming, was a great opportunity to get students involved.”

Senior Lauren Rush made the voting registration boxes available by placing more on campus.

Senior Alyssa Rodriguez’s goal was to increase voting accessibility on campus. Rodriguez created fliers for people with auditory and physical disabilities and worked with multicultural students to encourage voting across campus, according to Inside Iowa State University.

Demarquis Heard, a junior, also took photos with Cy working to promote voting with pictures in each college on Iowa State’s campus. He also taught courses to STEM majors for training in political processes, citizen engagement and voting, according to Inside Iowa State University.

One of the main goals of this outreach was to get students more involved in voting and teach them how to vote.

Carrie Johnson, coordinator of intern research and outreach for the Carrie Chapman Catt Center, worked with these students and found ways to improve voting turnout.

“I think having students out there sharing information and enthusiasm with each other was our best strategy,” Johnson stated in an email to the Daily. “While programs can be helpful in distributing information, nothing beats having a friend who is enthusiastic.”

Johnson stated students increased the voting turnout simply by inviting peers to join them at the polls. She said if every student invited two or three peers to vote with them, the student vote would be unstoppable.

“That is what this voter engagement movement did marvelously,” Johnson stated in an email to the Daily. “It provided a structure that gave the interns a base from which to be invitational and involved and a reason to step out of their comfort zone and work with other students.”

Student engagement was the best method for their success. According to an Iowa State News Service article, Iowa State’s student voting rate was 73% in 2020, above the national average for colleges and universities.

This effort earned many awards, including Bronze Seal in 2016 and the Gold Seal in 2018 and 2020. Kedrowski also helped Iowa State earn national recognition for its achievements.

Karen Kedrowski pictured while discussing her resolution to support student voting. (By Jack McClellan)

Kedrowski stated she believes voting and access to elections are some of the most important aspects of democracy.

“I believe in democracy, free and fair elections and the rule of law,” Kedrowski stated. “Voting is a right, a responsibility and a privilege. It’s my opportunity to weigh in on candidates and policy, as well as a patriotic act.”

Johnson stated she thinks voting is important because it preserves people’s commitment to their community and nation. She stated voting gives people a reason to educate themselves on important topics and care enough to move forward.

“For years, I lived in a place where my vote was going to make little difference because the state leaned heavily to one side, but voting is bigger than my ability to make a difference,” Johnson stated in an email. “It is my way of saying that I care–I care about living in a community, and my voice matters even if it doesn’t change anything.”