Jumpstarting the vote

 Uncategorized
May 042004
 
Authors: Jamie Way

From punk concerts to free ice cream, organizations around the

nation are utilizing their resources in an attempt to mobilize the

youth vote.

As the 2004 election approaches, many youth-voter organizations

say more effort has gone into encouraging young people to vote this

year and the youth-voter organizations have cooperated more than

ever before.

“There’s definitely a lot more programs (this year),” said

Veronica De La Garza, executive director of the Youth Vote

Coalition. “It’s an unprecedented effort.”

Youth Vote Coalition is one of many youth-voter organizations

working to mobilize the 18- to 30-year-old vote. De La Garza, 28,

said that although there are many reasons young people tend to not

vote, one of the main reasons is that politicians are not

responsive to young people’s needs.

“Our political system is not reaching out to young people,” De

La Garza said. “You’re ignoring a quarter of the population.”

Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream has partnered with Rock the Vote to

attract young voters, using its “Free Cone Day” as a time when Rock

the Vote can register voters.

“I have seen more groups working on voter registration than ever

before,” said Lee Holden, spokesperson for Ben and Jerry’s. “It’s

so encouraging. I hope we’ll see a record turnout this

election.”

Ben and Jerry’s has now developed a democratically named ice

cream flavor, “Primary Berry Graham” which America Online users

voted on. Part of the profits from this flavor will be donated to

Rock the Vote.

“It’s an absolutely critical year this year,” Holden said. “That

age group (18- to 24-years old) is huge and very powerful.”

Jay Strell, spokesperson for Rock the Vote, said young people

are being motivated to vote by a variety of issues, ranging from

school-loan debts to the war in Iraq.

“I just think that the stakes are very high in this election,”

Strell said. “So much has changed since 2000.”

Rock the Vote has set its goal for this year at registering one

million new voters. According to Strell, the program is about a

quarter of the way to reaching that goal.

Strell said this year there has been much more cooperation

between the youth-voter organizations.

Campus Compact has also been actively mobilizing the youth vote,

with its “Raise Your Voice Campaign,” as well as student-leadership

teams.

“I think what happened in 2000 … really brought the importance

of each individual vote to the forefront,” said Josh Stearns,

policy and communications associate of Campus Compact.

Stearns said the New Voters Project, a group designed to

encourage new voters has brought many different groups together,

including MTV and World Wrestling Entertainment.

“We think (encouraging the youth vote) is vital,” Stearns

said.

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