[Mb-civic]     Young People Registering by the Tens of Thousands      in Battleground States

Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Wed Sep 22 16:08:46 PDT 2004

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    Young People Registering by the Tens of Thousands
    in Battleground States
    By Martha Irvine
    The Associated Press

     Monday 20 September 2004

     Voter registration drives aimed at young people are turning 18- to
24-year-olds into an important variable in the presidential election,
especially in decisive battleground states such as Michigan where nearly
100,000 young people have registered in recent months and Wisconsin, where
the numbers are even higher.

     They are the nation's newest swing voters, with polls showing their
support for the major candidates has vacillated in recent months. A Harvard
University poll found that, in a five-month period, 19 percent of young
potential voters changed their minds about whom they'd support.

     "It's a big population of fluid voters, and they're largely unknown,"
says Ivan Frishberg, outreach and communications coordinator for the
nonprofit New Voters Project, which has registered tens of thousands of
young people across the country.

     Take Kristin Wilson, a 23-year-old in Perrysburg, Ohio, and her
18-year-old sister, Kellyn, a freshman at Ohio State University. Both have
registered to vote, but neither identifies as Republican or Democrat and
both are taking their time deciding who to vote for.

     "I think people underestimate people our age," Kellyn says. "And they

     Traditionally, young voters have been among the least likely Americans
to vote. Exit polls from the 2000 election found that, of 48 million
potential voters younger than 30, only about 18 million of them went to the
polls. And in this year's Democratic primaries, widespread support on
college campuses did not translate into victories for candidate Howard Dean.

     Still, candidates have made some attempts to reach out to college
students and other young people. The Bush campaign has a Web log that
includes "Barbara and Jenna's journal," detailing the president's daughters'
campaign exploits. Democrat John Kerry, who made a campus tour last spring,
recently appeared on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and was to appear
Monday on "The Late Show with David Letterman."

     The political parties, meanwhile, are using volunteers and paid
canvassers to register young voters and get them to the polls. For instance,
the College Republican National Committee has 60 field staffers and a
multimillion-dollar budget dedicated to turning out young voters for the
president in battleground states.

     But the attempts can sometimes fall flat.

     "Some of it feels very awkward to young people like the candidates are
trying too hard," says Jane Eisner, author of the new book "Taking Back the
Vote: Getting American Youth Involved in Our Democracy."

     Other times, young people feel ignored, says Stephen Lucas, a high
school junior in Leechburg, Pa.

     "I haven't heard any serious talk about college tuition, or even people
our age mentioned," says Lucas, who works with a group called Freedom's
Answer to get upperclassmen interested in voting.

     It's still anybody's guess how many young people have registered in his
state, another thought to be a toss-up. Michigan is one of the few that has
compiled registration numbers by age.

     Officials in several other battleground states New Mexico, Ohio and
Florida among them see clear signs that more young people are interested in
this election. And some election experts believe that polls of "likely
voters" often miss young people because the population is so mobile.

     In Wisconsin, the New Voters Project claims to have registered more
than 109,000 young people numbers election officials say they have "no
reason to doubt."

     "It's been an incredible undertaking," says Kevin Kennedy, executive
director of the State Board of Elections in Wisconsin, a state Al Gore won
by less than 6,000 votes in 2000.

     Officials at Rock the Vote a nationwide campaign aimed at young people
say they expect registration numbers to surge as deadlines in many states
approach. In the first two weeks of September alone, more than 163,000
people filled out and downloaded registration forms from Rock the Vote's Web
site. Hans Riemer, the organization's Washington, D.C., director, says that
in the past week as many as 20,000 people a day used the site to register.

     At that rate, he says Rock the Vote's registration numbers may surpass
those from 1992 a year when young voter turnout topped 50 percent for the
first and only time since 1972.

     One political scientist says he's particularly interested to see what
happens this time in Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, where voters
can register on Election Day. Data has shown that young people are
particularly likely to take advantage of same-day registration.

     "It leaves the door open for a surprising outcome," says Donald Green,
a political scientist at Yale University and co-author of "Get Out the Vote:
How to Increase Voter Turnout."

     Stephanie Camargo, a recent graduate of the University of Florida who
opted not to vote in 2000, says she'll be one of those young people who gets
to the polls Nov. 2. She has many motivators from the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks and the war in Iraq (where she has a cousin fighting), to peers who
are still looking for jobs.

     "Before I thought of politics as a game," says Camargo, 22, who's
registered in Broward County, Fla. "Now I realize you have to play the game
if you want to make a difference."

     On the Net: 
    Rock The Vote 
    Freedom's Answer



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