Iowa State sophomore registers students to vote across Iowa

The Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics has partnered with the Iowa Campus Compact to hire an election engagement project intern to help boost voter registration of students on campuses statewide.

Kathryn Leidahl, sophomore in political science, international business and marketing on a pre-law track at Iowa State University, started her internship in July and will work through November. The main objectives of her internship – which is funded through a grant from the national Campus Election Engagement Project to the Iowa Campus Compact – are to create a more politically aware environment across college campuses in Iowa, increase student voter registration and build a more active political population in Iowa.

“The Campus Election Engagement Project has been around nationally for some time, and it’s been great trying to bolster interest among my age group in Iowa,” Leidahl said. “There’s another Iowa Campus Compact intern at Simpson College, MacKenzie Bills, with whom I get to work and bounce ideas off of whenever I have a question. That’s been extremely beneficial.”

So far, Leidahl has helped coordinate various voter registration drives across the state. She has been working directly with students and student groups at Iowa State, the University of Northern Iowa and Buena Vista University. Bills has been working with Simpson College and the University of Iowa. They are both reaching out to students and organizations at other public and private colleges throughout the state.

“Our big idea that we’re working on now is to put together a voter registration competition among the state’s three Regents universities,” Leidahl said. “We think it would be fun to see which school ends up with the most percentage of their student body registered to vote after a registration drive.”

Not only do Leidahl and Bills work together; they also collaborate with various CEEP college interns throughout the nation.

Leidahl says working with interns in other states helps her learn how their laws and systems work. For instance, Leidahl has worked with interns in Wisconsin, Alaska and Florida.

“Wisconsin has similar laws to Iowa in that both states allow same-day registration,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed learning about their lobbying process and understanding other states’ political climates.”

Leidahl’s favorite part about her internship is “reaching out to my generation and urging them to be involved in politics.”

After reading an article in one of her classes that 18- to 25-year-olds have the lowest voter registration percentage, Leidahl knew interning with the Iowa Campus Compact aligned with her interests.

“It’s our government. It’s our nation, and we should have a say in policies in states and in our country. The low percentage of college students voting doesn’t make any sense, and I’m glad I get to be a part of making a change,” she said.

Leidahl's internship is hosted by the Catt Center, which provides office space, access to a computer and telephone, and supervisory support and input.

For more information about the Iowa Campus Compact, visit iacampuscompact.org. More information about the CEEP is available at campuselect.org.