Voting

(Shenandoah) -- Students across Iowa will soon get to experience a "dry-run" of the Iowa Caucuses.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, in conjunction with the Iowa Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Iowa, announced two weeks ago the formation of the Iowa Statewide Youth Caucus on Thursday as part of his "Caucus 101" curriculum. Shenandoah High School Government teacher Jennifer Cole tells KMA News the curriculum is designed to encourage students to become lifelong voters.

"I think our last two Secretaries of State have done a really good job in trying to raise awareness for students, so they can be active voters when they are older," said Cole. "The current Secretary of State has designed a new Caucus curriculum, and I was one of the editors on that and helped finalize the lessons. The culmination of that is your school holding a model caucus for multiple schools in your area, so students get that live experience of what a caucus is really like."

Shenandoah High School will host the event for both Fremont and Page counties. Cole says students in her government classes haven't discussed the caucus process a whole lot, but they have been keeping up with the presidential campaign.

"We haven't done a whole lot of talking about the caucuses yet, other than just generally talking about the presidential candidates," said Cole. "Especially as it pertains to the news, like the situation that happened in Paris or discussing immigration or when Donald Trump tweets about Iowa, various things like that."

By establishing lifelong voters, another aim of the program will be maintaining Iowa's first-in-the-nation status when it comes to choosing each party's nominee. Cole says that getting the candidates themselves to the area will go a long ways toward motivating students to participate.

"Unfortunately, this cycle we haven't had a lot of politicians come locally as we usually do," said Cole. "There have been a few, but not nearly as many. So, I think that's hampered the excitement a little bit, because when you can see those politicians in person, they really understand why it's important."

Cole adds that just making students familiar with the unique process is another benefit of the youth caucus.

"Getting the students comfortable with the process and how do you go vote, how do you show up on Caucus night and what happens, all of that is also critical so they feel comfortable going out to do it," said Cole. "That is why the model Caucus is great. They're are going to go through a Republican Caucus and a Democratic Caucus, so students will understand the differences in the party. Hopefully, that will inspire students to show up in February."

The Statewide Youth Caucus is open to all middle and high school students with registration at 4:30 and the caucus at 5:30 in most locations. For a full list of the counties that are participating or to register, visit the Caucus 101 website.