“Rock the Caucus” Launches to Mobilize Young Iowans to 2008 Caucuses

Today Iowa Secretary of State Michael A. Mauro, Rock the Vote, and Iowa PIRG’s New Voters Project announced a joint nonpartisan effort, Rock the Caucus, to encourage young voter participation in the 2008 Iowa presidential caucuses. Endorsed by both the Iowa Democratic and Republican parties, the program will use an educational curriculum, volunteer leaders, and peer-to-peer outreach to mobilize high school and college students to the January caucuses.

Rock the Caucus will mobilize a new generation of caucus-goers in Iowa,” stated Iowa Secretary Michael A. Mauro. “Through this exciting new partnership– which pairs high schools and college campuses with non-profits and the state– we can set our youngest citizens on a lifelong path of political engagement.”

Rock the Caucus will secure pledges from high school seniors and college students to caucus and bring their friends to the caucuses. In high schools, Rock the Vote, the Iowa Secretary of State, and participating teachers and administrators will participate in a Mock Caucus and implement the Rock the Caucus curriculum to teach new potential caucus-goers how the process works and encourage them to bring their friends along; on college campuses, Iowa PIRG will recruit hundreds of “Caucus Rock Stars,” student leaders who will get 20 of their peers to pledge to caucus and help to turn them out to the caucuses in their hometowns or near their college campus.

“Across the nation, young voters turned out in large numbers in the 2004 and 2006 general elections– the first step to continuing that momentum in 2008 is mobilizing young voters in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus,” said Heather Smith, Executive Director of Rock the Vote. “We’re thrilled to work with Iowa Secretary of State Michael A. Mauro and Iowa PIRG to tap the voting power of young adults in Iowa and continue the recent trend of growing young voter participation.”

Young Iowans, according to recent polling, appear to be up for grabs among the leading contenders on both sides of the aisle: young Democrats are most supportive of Hillary Clinton (40%), Barack Obama (23%), and John Edwards (15%), and young Republicans are most supportive of Mitt Romney (22%) and Fred Thompson (24%), followed by Rudy Giuliani (9%), John McCain (9%), and Mike Huckabee (9%). (Rasmussen poll, Oct. 2007) Given the fluidity of voter choice among the Iowa electorate, all candidates have ample opportunity to court young voters as the caucus nears.

“Young people will vote if they are asked to,” said Sujatha Jahagirdar, Iowa PIRG New Voters Project Program Director. “It’s up to the candidates to sit up, take notice, and reach out to young voters.”

Polling from Rock the Vote finds young adults are engaged in the 2008 elections, but need to hear from candidates on top issues, including education and college affordability, jobs and the economy, health care, and Iraq. “Young voters need to hear real answers and concrete plans this election. By hitting the pavement in Iowa, we’ll ensure that this demand is heard loudly and clearly at Caucus time,” concluded Jahagirdar.

For more information about Rock the Caucus, see www.rockthecaucus.com and www.iowapirgstudents.org.

About the Secretary of State

Among many duties, the Secretary of States office is the state commissioner of elections and supervises Iowa’s 99 county auditors in the administration of our election laws and administrative rules. To find out more about the 2008 Iowa Student Caucus go to: http://www.sos.state.ia.us

About Rock the Vote

Rock the Vote, founded nearly twenty years ago in response to a wave of attacks on freedom of speech and artistic expression, coordinates voter registration drives, get out the vote events, and voter education efforts — all with the intention of building political power for our nation’s youth. In the 2004 election cycle, Rock the Vote registered over 800,000 people to vote, the largest nonpartisan youth voter registration drive in the country. Building on that success, in 2008 Rock the Vote will register two million 18-29 year olds to vote and help continue the recent momentum of growing young voter turnout. www.rockthevote.org.

About Iowa PIRG’s New Voters Project

Launched in 2003, Iowa PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) and the Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project is the largest national non-profit, nonpartisan youth voter mobilization effort. Since 2003, the project registered more than 600,000 young voters and made more than 650,000 personalized Get Out the Vote contacts leading up to Election Day to turn out young voters. A recent analysis found that in Iowa, young people contacted by the Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project turned out at a rate 13 percentage points higher than a group of demographically similar individuals. www.newvotersproject.org