DENVER – Young Democrats from across the nation convened in the Wells Fargo Theater of the Colorado Convention Center yesterday afternoon to discuss the challenges of youthful politicos — namely, the difficulties of voter registration and interacting with less familiar audiences.
Jane Fleming, co-chair of the Democratic National Convention Youth Council, introduced a panel of various consultants and representatives of political organizations, including CNN political analyst Jamal Simmons. Before addressing the panel, Fleming spoke about the particular struggles of registering young voters.
“One obstacle we’ve seen: finding them,” Fleming said of unregistered youth. “The information available on governmental records is often not correct, as (young people) are constantly moving around.”
Fleming said the solution to this issue was foregoing the lists of addresses and names and utilizing peer-to-peer techniques in getting young voters to fill out registration forms. In short, making the connection either in real life or through online means is key. She referred to the six million number mark of voters under the age of 36 who participated in the primaries and caucuses of 2008.
Heather Smith, a coordinator involved with Rock The Vote, encouraged audience members to more closely examine the registration process and push for a smoother process.
“I believe it’s critical for us to make the registration process easier, to boost participation and really foster in young voters,” Smith said.
Then came discussion of the next step: getting young voters to become politically active. Jason Rae, a 21-year-old superdelegate from Wisconsin, noted that progress was being made, as this year’s convention included 631 delegates under the age of 36, making it the most youthful convention in the history of the party.
A question and answer session following the panel conversation fielded a number of remarks regarding struggles young politicians faced in working to further their career. Brandi Richards, a 32-year-old delegate from Texas, told the panel of her struggles in reaching out to young adults without a college education in her attempts to register voters and find support for campaigns on which she has worked.
Thomas Bates, executive director of the community service organization Democrats Work, spoke on his experiences as a young person struggling to fit in with the political parties of his home state of Arkansas.
“There’s more people over the age of 70 on the central committees of county parties than under the age of 40, these are not meetings that look like meetings that we could go to,” Bates said.
He encouraged Richards and other young activists to seek out specific ways to access audiences they normally would have difficulty reaching.
“I think our generation is very keyed in to what appeals to us and try to ask people through something that has no appeal to them or no relevance to their lives,” Richards said.