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MUSCATINE — Local high school government teacher Kurt Acord has been challenging his students to think critically about the upcoming elections, including "stirring the pot" to encourage debate.

"I don't care who they vote for, I just want the kids to vote," he said.

Students from elementary schools to high schools across the state participated last week in the Iowa Youth Straw Poll with more than 40,000 votes cast from 92 counties.

Acord's and teacher Chris Foxen's classes participated in the poll with 190 juniors and seniors voting. Acord said students were introduced to the website to review key issues including national security, the environment, health care and foreign policy. They also completed the Iowa Voter Guide to see how their answers to questions on those issues aligned with politicians.'

"I want kids to care and know what their rights are and who they're voting for so those rights aren't taken away," he said.

Results of the statewide poll had Republicans winning the Governor's seat and all four Congressional seats. Gov. Kim Reynolds won with 46.6 percent of the vote or just more than 19,000 votes. Other winners were Rod Blum, Christopher Peters, David Young and Steve King.

"It's fun to see the kids start to think like politicians and develop arguments," Acord said. 

Immigration issues and gerrymandering were topics he enjoyed hearing students discuss. He said they reviewed various states' voting districts and how parties try to alter election lines.

"I strongly encourage them to experience it — go to the polls," he said while also telling them how to vote absentee and even brought in his ballot.

The straw poll also showed 84.1 percent of participating students would register to vote when they are old enough. Other local schools that participated included Muscatine Community School District with 98 voters, Louisa-Muscatine High School with 59 and Wilton Elementary School with 133.

"I'm hoping they stay engaged and continue to be functioning members of the voting society," he said.

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