Iowa voters can register at age 17

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM Marshalltown High School juniors Alysha Ortega and Mary Kate Gruening share a laugh while discussing their political activities. They both volunteered for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign and look forward to the day when they can register to vote.

A new twist to the election this year is that 17-year-olds in Iowa can register to vote. However, they need to be 18 by the time of the general election.

As long as they are 18 by Nov. 3, 2020, registered 17-year-olds can also participate in primary elections and caucuses.

The new rule is courtesy of the Iowa Legislature which passed the law in May 2017 but went into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

School districts in Iowa are encouraged to help of-age students register and Marshalltown is doing its best.

Brad Rahmiller, social studies teacher at Marshalltown High School, said the district is in the process of student registration.

“We offer to take them through the process, teach them how to vote and get registered,” he said. “I love the fact that they can register at 17. It tears down a hurdle that kids would have to jump on their own. By registering them early it is easier for them to vote when they are 18.”

The reaction of the students to the new experience has been mixed. Rahmiller said the generation in high school is very politically active. In fact, two juniors — Mary Kate Gruening and Alysha Ortega — are volunteers with the Elizabeth Warren campaign.

Unfortunately neither one are old enough to register. Ortega will turn 17 in November, seven days after election day. Gruening will turn 17 in five months, but both are very excited at the prospect.

Gruening said growing up, her parents always voted and her brother registered to vote on the day of his 18th birthday.

“We have always been politically active,” she said. “I started following current events when I was younger and formed my own opinions.”

Ortega feels a strong urge to get involved with politics because her father is an immigrant from Mexico, so she said his voice is not always heard.

“I want his voice heard,” Ortega said. “I think young people need to get more active in politics. We do not know the impact we might have.”


Contact Lana Bradstream at

641-753-6611 or



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