For years, organizations have been working to “Get out the vote,” targeting young people who have recently turned voting age. The efforts worked for one PCM High School senior, Maddy Ladehoff, who even went on to be a precinct captain at the recent Iowa Caucus.
“I have always been interested in politics, this year I was more interested because I could actually have a say in it and it is the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote,” Ladehoff said.
When the 2020 presidential race was just starting to gain traction, Ladehoff looked into each of the candidates to learn about their campaigns and positions. Through her research, she found she connected most with former South Bend, Ind. mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for the Democratic nomination.
“His message of unity and belonging really reached out to me,” Ladehoff said.
A few weeks later she had a run in with a Buttigieg organizer and found out how to get involved with the campaign. From there, she began helping Ben Osterlund, the Buttigieg Jasper County organizer, with tasks including knocking on doors and phone banking. An added bonus, she was able to complete 20 hours of volunteer time for the high school’s silver cord program.
“After I started volunteering in the Jasper County office, Ben showed a lot of confidence in my ability and asked if I’d be willing (to be precinct captain,)” Ladehoff said. “It’s important for precincts to have local captains because it can help connect with voters better.”
This wouldn’t be the first caucus experience for Ladehoff, who attended the 2016 Republican caucus as an observer. Attending the caucus for the Democrats would be a different, though, because of how each party runs the voting process.
“We had meetings every Monday starting in December. At those meetings we went over how caucuses work, how to do the various math formulas, and ways to talk and connect with people in our community,” Ladehoff said. “I also had to do a lot of canvassing before the caucuses to make sure I would have a strong team going into the caucus day.”
Although the state caucusing process has had its faults this year, Ladehoff’s experience as the local captain was “amazing.”
“I got to meet a lot of new people around our community and from around the nation. On caucus night, it was really cool to be able to represent a candidate I really believe in and make my voice heard,” Ladehoff said.
Even when a few rule changes from the Iowa Democratic Party regarding the math used causing a bit of a disruption, Ladehoff worked through the issue, alongside volunteers from the campaign, to clarify the changes to make sure everything ran smoothly.
“At the end of the night I was really happy with our numbers,” Ladehoff said. “The viability number was 10, on the first alignment Team Pete had 13 and on the second we had 19.”
As precinct captain, Ladehoff was also charged with giving a speech to the crowd about why she chose to back Buttigieg. In her speech, she gave examples on why he was the candidate for her including his goal to unify the country, his service in the military and his caring nature.
“When I went to a rally a few weeks ago I wanted the opportunity to meet our future president but was pushed around by news crews,” Ladehoff said in her speech. “Pete and his team wanted to meet with his grassroots campaigners and not even 60 seconds later and I was backstage having a conversation with Pete. He made me feel important and thanked me for my efforts. That spoke volumes to me.”
With her first active caucus being a positive one, Ladehoff said she would definitely participate again. From meeting new people to actually being a part of the process, the caucus gave her a life experience to build on.
“The things that I got to do and learn are much bigger than just being a precinct captain,” Ladehoff said. “I loved talking to new people and building new relationships, I really liked being able to make an impact in our community and the Pete campaign, and I was able to learn more about myself and what I may want to do in the future.”
Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or firstname.lastname@example.org