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Using goats to lure young people to vote? Not a baa-d idea, organizers say
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Using goats to lure young people to vote? Not a baa-d idea, organizers say

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WATERLOO — For Micah McCutchan, it was “pretty obvious” why she decided to host her latest get-out-the-vote livestream from a Waterloo goat farm.

“Goats are freaking adorable — everyone loves goats,” she said.

Never mind that, as the NextGen Iowa field organizer was starting the “Goat Out the Vote” livestream, one of the goats mistook McCutchan’s finger for food and bit down.

If it convinced a few young people to watch — and learn more about how to vote in the process — it was all worth it.

“Voting seems really complicated this year, but it’s not, in reality,” McCutchan said. “And if you think voting is too complicated and you’re stressed out about it, don’t worry — we’re here to help, and your vote matters.”

As the 2020 presidential election finally winds its way down to Election Day, groups like the progressive NextGen Iowa are using events like Goat Out the Vote, as well as rides to the polls in places like Cedar Falls, to turn out an historically underrepresented voting bloc: Young people between the ages of 18 and 35.

It’s not that younger voters don’t care about who’s representing them, said McCutchan. It’s the other way around.

“Most people want to see change — they have priorities they want to see reflected in government — but people feel government doesn’t care about them,” she said.

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The coronavirus pandemic has made NextGen’s job, which used to involve a lot of door-knocking, a bit more difficult. But organizers like McCutchan are working the phones and running voter how-to livestreams, as well as reaching people on social media.

And their efforts, along with other youth voter turnout efforts, have been working.

NextGen Iowa press secretary Murphy Burke said on Tuesday more than 104,375 Iowa voters 18-34 had returned absentee ballots or voted early in-person ballots, a total of 17% of that age group registered.

By this time in 2018, prior to the midterm election, only 11% of voters had done so, Burke said, and with a total of 18% of young voters casting ballots in 2016, 2020 was likely to break that record.

“All of the requests are evidence that a lot of people want to vote in this election; they want to express that they’re unhappy,” Burke said. “It shows that people are taking it seriously.”

For those that aren’t sure about the candidates on offer, McCutchan instead asks about the issues that are important to them, and points out which candidates align with those issues.

“If voting doesn’t matter, they wouldn’t make it difficult to vote,” she said. “Your vote is personal. It’s about you standing up for what you care about, and showing that you care enough to act.”

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