Encouraging the youth vote
Maybe it’s because less than half of eligible 18-24 year-olds voted in the 2000 Presidential Election. Or maybe it’s because there are over twice as many 18-24 year-olds as there are 66-77 year-olds, according to the Census Bureau. Either way, there are dozens of groups vying to get younger people to vote Nov. 2.
According to Audrey Wallace, the Florida state director of the New Voters Project, $40 million nationwide has been invested to significantly increase voter turnout among young people.
“Young people are an untapped resource,” Wallace said. “Whatever party that gets them, gets the advantage over the other party.”
The New Voters Project is the largest non-partisan grassroots youth voter mobilization in history according to Wallace. Its goal: to register 265,000 18-24 year-olds. The project began in the six main swing states with the young people population totaling 2 million. It was expanded to 12 states including Florida.
But once young people are registered to vote, only half the battle is won. The project also wants to significantly increase voter turnout as well, said Wallace. The basic theme for the project is “make them pay attention to us.”
“Politicians have ignored young people and hence have lost them along the way,” Wallace said.
“Thirty-six percent of 18-24 year-olds voted in 2000, and 72 percent of 65-74 year-olds voted,” Wallace said. “So you can see why politicians focus on older people.”
According to Wallace, this is why Americans continue to see ads for Social Security and Medicare.
But why don’t young people vote? J. Edwin Benton, a USF political science professor, said there are two reasons.
“The main reason is because politics hasn’t become relevant to their lives,” Benton said. “They don’t see the connections between their everyday lives and politics.”
According to Benton, people don’t see the connection until they buy a house or have a family. Then once people experience these things, politics becomes important because they pay more taxes.
The other reason young people do not vote is not a matter of not wanting to vote; it’s because young people may not meet residency requirements.
“Most people are the most mobile when they’re young,” Benton said. “They move around a lot and can’t meet registry requirements.”
Another group is taking a more erotic approach to get young people to vote.
At Votergasm.org visitors can register to vote, sign up to host an election night party, search for an election night party or take the pledge. Visitors may take a pledge of varying provocative degrees. A “citizen” makes a pledge to withhold sex from non-voters for the week following the election. A “patriot” pledges to have sex with a voter on election night and withhold sex from non-voters for the following week. But an “American hero” pledges to have sex with a voter on election night and withhold sex from non-voters for four years.
“Our goal is to have 100,000 young voters catalyze into 250,000 Votergasms,” said Michelle Collins, spokesperson for Votergasm.org said.
Votergasm.org was created by a group of graduates from Columbia and Harvard.
“When my colleagues and I looked at the statistics, we were appalled,” Collins said. “In the year 2000, millions of young people didn’t vote, and even more young people didn’t have sex that night. Votergasm is here to say: ‘never again.'”
As of Sept. 22, Votergasm.org received 6,500 pledges but more than one million web hits total, according to Collins.
The Web site also includes suggestive tutorials, including a how-to on hosting an election night party, a how-to guide to advocacy groups and a how-to do it: nine steps to Votergasm.
“Votergasm parties are being planned all around the country, from college campuses to exclusive underground clubs and at some places that I’m not even allowed to talk about,” Collins said. “Votergasm parties are where the dream becomes a reality.”
Register and Vote 2004 is another campaign that is encouraging young people to get out and vote. According to a press release, Register and Vote 2004 is a non-partisan Public Service Advertisements campaign started by the Ad Council and the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
The group uses public service ads, blogs (online journals) and text messaging to reach young adults. The Web site www.registerandvote2004.org features voting games, blogs and information on how to register to vote.
Caitlin Davis, a 19-year-old sophomore at Georgetown University, is the spokesperson and blogger for Register and Vote 2004.
“We’ve seen in recent elections how important every vote is,” Davis said. “Young people don’t realize how important we are.”
Davis said young people don’t vote because they think they don’t know enough.
“It’s hard to convince people how much they really know,” Davis said. “If you feel like something is important to you, go ahead and vote for it.”
Everybody’s doin’ it in ’04 is the idea behind Voter Virgin. Created in Texas to promote fun and democracy, according to the website www.votervirgin.com, millions of volunteers are working to register first-time voters.
Not a virgin? No worries. There are also Reinstated Voter Virgins, those who voted in the past but have abstained in recent elections, according to the Web site.
Voter Virgin also sells a line of t-shirts, pens, stickers, stamps and temporary tattoos for the most loyal of virgins.
Even at USF there are groups attempting to convince students of their importance in this election. SG sponsored Wake-up Wednesday in order to get students to register and vote.
Every Wednesday, Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus, who works for the Florida Consumer Action Network Foundation through Student Senate, seeks to get people registered until the last day registration is allowed, which is Monday. After that the group will begin a Get Out the Vote campaign to encourage those registered to actually go to the polls. The group is a non-partisan and non-profit, according to Cameron-Glickenhaus.
“We talk about issues; we don’t talk about candidates,” Cameron-Glickenhaus said.
Florida Consumer Action Network Foundation wants to register 25,000 voters in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties before Monday, according to a story in the St. Petersburg Times.
The group is also working on the St. Petersburg campus, at the University of Tampa and Hillsborough Community College, according to Cameron-Glickenhaus.
So, with so many organizations of all sorts putting forth millions of dollars and hours of hard work, will their work culminate into millions of voters? And will their incentives work?
People, such as Wallace, hope hope so because there is great potential.
“There are 25.8 million young people. If any group gets them now, they’ll have them for 40 or 60 years,” Wallace said.
“They (young people) are still persuadable,” Wallace said. “This is virgin territory.”