SIOUX CITY -- A female student walked up to an early voting satellite station at Morningside College on Oct. 15, taking a photo of the "Vote Here" sign stand on the ground.
She rushed back to her two friends, announcing she would tweet out the image on her Twitter account. But will she vote?
While that co-ed might have been excited about the Nov. 6 midterm election, political observers --- and candidates hoping to win contests -- are wondering if millennials will just talk and air social media observations or turn out and vote. Young people historically don't have a strong track record of voting, Buena Vista College political science professor Bradley Best said.
Best noted the U.S. Election Project shows less than 20 percent of eligible voters ages 18 to 29 participated in the 2014 midterms.
Best said that young voters certainly could have a big impact out political races, if they vote. He said voting behavior experts estimate that since the November 2016 presidential elections, just over 8 million young people turned 18 and joined the voting-eligible population.
"That equates to about 3.5 percent of the overall voting-eligible population in 2016. Thus, the number of new and first-time voters who could potentially vote and impact the 2018 elections is, for sure, substantial," Best said.
He added that Americans, as a whole, vote far less in midterm elections. Thirty-seven percent of the voting eligible population cast ballots in 2014, In 2016, a presidential election year, the turnout was 60 percent.
Also on Monday in the Morningside College student union, Kailyn Roberts strode with purpose into the early voting satellite location. Roberts, a 20-year-old junior from Osage City, Kansas, first voted in the 2016 election during her freshman year of college.
Roberts said she is more politically motivated than some Morningside students, as she is president of the Morningside Civic Union group that tries to educate students on public policy. She said college students need a lot of information, as they are deciding whether to begin the habit of voting.
Therefore, Roberts said it is good there are organizations and professors who give information and prodding.
"A lot of people don't even know how to find their polling place, so it deters some people," Roberts said.
Roberts and Morningside senior Anthony Patton said many students on campus have been gearing up for months towards voting this year, following the surprising 2016 win by President Donald Trump. They said students who like Trump want to vote for other Republicans, while those who don't support the president want to elect Democrats as a counter balance.
With that reality in their minds, Siouxland political party leaders are pushing to add young adults and voters in other age groups to use early voting and or cast ballots on election day.
Woodbury County Republican Party Chairwoman Suzan Stewart and Woodbury County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Dumkrieger said they're doing outreach to young voters.
"We have made concerted efforts to reach younger voters through door knocking, calling and registering voters," Stewart said.
Dumkrieger said many young people are using the early voting period to vote Democratic.
"They are voting and will continue to vote. Not only are they voting, but they are also volunteering to make sure others vote too," Dumkrieger.
Roberts said she discusses the election and urges her Morningsider classmates to vote.
"I always say, I don't care what your party is, but vote," she said.
Patton voted for the second time in his life via the satellite option, and said he's on social media noticed "a lot more pushing by people my age to actually go vote." Just before casting his ballot, Patton said he discussed what he was about to do with a group of fellow Morningside cross country team members, and the majority said they planned to vote by November.
He said on election day, however, "might not be the most feasible" time for students to vote, given how busy some Tuesdays can be on campus.
Roberts said key issues to her include immigration reform and women's health care.
"For younger people, it is less on things like the budget or the economy, but it is the hot button (social) issues that get the attention," she said.
Patton, a registered independent from Lincoln, Nebraska, said a lot of students are motivated by the Senate confirmation hearings three weeks ago that resulted in Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed as a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Kavanaugh was nominated by Trump, and in the hearings a combative Kavanaugh denied California college professor Christine Blasey Ford's testimony to the committee that he sexually assaulted her at a 1980s high school party while they were teenagers.
"I think it motivates a lot of women to vote," whether conservative or liberal, Patton said.
Best said political scientists are viewing whether young women register and vote in record numbers this November. He also is watching to see how young people view the Trump presidency and Republican lawmakers who support him, including whether they lead a “blue wave” of anti-Trump reaction.
"It would be unwise to neglect the possibility that the youngest voters are mobilizing in ways that could make 2018 an exception to the rule where youth engagement in politics is concerned," Best said.
Each county leader said their political party has good policies to entice young people.
"We look toward expanding opportunities in renewable energy and technology that will allow young people to stay in Iowa to create and build businesses or work remotely for companies from around the world. We want to bring back high paying jobs; high-quality, healthy, sustainable employment that will provide security and benefits for families for decades," Dumkrieger said.
For the Republican side, Stewart said, "Jobs and economic progress are hallmarks of the Republican Party and young people recognize this. Young people in our area know government funding and handouts come with a price and understand that the best way to make progress is through good jobs and a great economy as we are currently experiencing under the guidance of Governor Kim Reynolds."
SIOUX CITY -- Nicki Leedom was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer while 9 months pregnant with the youngest of her four children.
"I was asked if I wanted to breast feed and I didn't, because I thought I had a clogged milk duct in my right breast," she explained.
Doctors performed tests and found a tumor, the size of a golf ball, which had gone undetected. Leedom gave birth to a son, Mason, on July 12, 2013. He weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces and measured 20 inches; a healthy, happy baby boy. As the new mother cuddled her bundle of joy that day, she mused about irony. "Both the happiest and the saddest day of my life," she said.
She began chemotherapy two weeks later.
"I don't know the name of the nurse who suggested we do a breast exam," Leedom said on Friday at Briar Cliff University. "I'd like to thank her. She saved my life."
Leedom has packed much into the ensuing five years, a period that, in one way, culminated on Wednesday as leaders at her school, Briar Cliff, came together to present her with an honorary degree in social work. When earning her degree (she's a couple of classes and a practicum shy) became impossible because of the return of her terminal cancer, she quit school to focus on her remaining quality of life and her children.
To say "quit" is harsh and inaccurate. This is no quitter.
"I'm in last round of radiation," she said. "I get a chemo shot each three weeks. Treatments buy me some time and allow me some comfort as the cancer isn't curable. It's in my bones and it (the disease) had moved to my lungs early on. My spine lights up with cancer."
After the initial diagnoses, she said doctors gave her one to two years. She beat those scary odds, and maybe she has her professors and peers at Briar Cliff to thank. She immersed herself in her children and her classwork. Becoming an advocate for children became her goal. She worked as a court-appointed special advocate and at Jackson Recovery Women's and Children's Center. She had visions of one day working on behalf of children in need for the Iowa Department of Human Services.
"I was supposed to graduate in May 2018, but we moved that day up to December 2017," she said. "As I got sicker, though, I couldn't walk the hill to get up here to class. I couldn't write papers anymore. I quit in October 2017 and spent time with my family."
Briar Cliff officials presented the honorary degree to the 36-year-old, joined by her grandmother, Fern Norris, and her 12-year-old daughter, Chelsi Foreman. "I wanted Chelsi to be there, so she could see her mom accomplish something huge," Leedom said. "I said, 'This is for you. I want you to go to college.'"
Leedom laughed and said she attempted writing a speech, but nothing came of it. As she sat and listened to a variety of speakers quote others, a favorite quote from the movie, "Back to the Future" popped into her head. She used it as it seemed spot-on for the occasion. "Marty McFly is who I quoted," she said with a smile. "He said, 'Whatever you can set your mind to, you can do.'"
She also laughed about being late to her own ceremony. This was a woman who was never late to a class.
"Briar Cliff has been like a family for me the past three years," she reflected. "If I wasn't at a therapist, I had a therapist here at school. I told people that even with cancer, you can't stop living. You keep going, you don't let it define you."
Cancer may have taken her hair through various stages; it may have sapped her strength and stamina, it was not going to take her spirit, her will to fight and to leave an impression upon others.
As she took her certificate home and placed it on the mantle, she still considered digging in, working for others. She urged -- and will continue to push -- women and those they love to seek changes in insurance that will allow coverage for mammograms before age 40. Leedom's diagnosis came when she was barely past age 30, after all.
"I had breast exams annually and nothing was detected," she said. "Even now, I'm not 40, so a mammogram wouldn't be covered by insurance."
Such a change, or at least a conversation, would represent needed progress, she said. So, she'll keep making that point to whomever might listen to this determined BCU Charger.
"Please write about this," she said to me as she dabbed tears on Friday. "Let people know."
The woman with the honorary degree shows honor in giving voice to those not served, children and women, primarily.
"Wednesday night's event here was huge for me," she said, sounding every bit like the champion fighter. "I worked my butt off and to be honored by Briar Cliff is a legacy I'll leave my kids."
SIOUX CITY -- Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was in Sioux City Saturday night stumping for J.D. Scholten, the Democratic congressional candidate seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, in Iowa's 4th congressional district.
Sanders was the last of six speakers at Eppley Auditorium on the Morningside College campus. Other Scholten supporters on stage included Sioux City middle school political activist Langston Saint; recent Morningside graduate Cody Hankerson; Our Revolution president and former Ohio state senator Nina Turner; Woodbury County Democratic chair Jeremy Dumkrieger; and Scholten himself.
About 350 people turned out for the rally, and the auditorium was perhaps two-thirds full.
While the other speakers largely talked about issues like healthcare, Sanders' loud and passionate speech was wide-ranging, touching on a variety of subjects: Wages and wealth disparity, universal healthcare, free college and the current level of student debt, climate change, the Republican tax cuts, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, voter suppression and voter turnout, abortion restrictions and Republican racial and social attitudes.
Relatively little was said of the trade war and the resulting slump in crop prices, nor King's unwillingness to debate Scholten, both of which have become focal points in the campaign.
Sanders took a number of digs at President Donald Trump, and reminisced about the 2016 Iowa caucuses, which he narrowly lost to Hillary Clinton.
"We need people in Congress who are going to stand up to the pathological liar who is the President of the United States," Sanders said to rapturous applause from the audience.
There has been speculation that Sanders, who is 77, will make a presidential run against Trump in 2020.
"I must tell you -- time after time, what Trump said that he would do for the American people turned out to be a lie, and it did, in many instances, exactly the opposite," he said.
He railed repeatedly against the Republican tax rewrite, which he said benefits the wealthy and corporations at the expense of working people and the poor.
"They have no problem in voting for and supporting a trillion-dollar tax cut for the top one percent!" Sanders said to boos from the crowd. "I think it is outrageous and immoral to have a budget which cuts not only Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, nutrition programs for low-income pregnant women -- and say 'We don't have enough money for those people, but we have a trillion dollars for tax breaks for large, profitable corporations and the wealthiest people in America.'"
During his speech, Scholten gave a brief address in Spanish. It seemed to be an effort to distance himself from King's widely-reported hostile attitude toward immigrants and minorities.
"Quiero un gobierno que funciona para todos nosotros. Su voz es su voto," he said, which translates to, "I want a government that works for us all. Your voice is your vote."