Organizations Reach Out To Younger Voters

This story was written by Sydney Eagleton, Kansas State Collegian


Though the 2004 presidential election saw a tremendous increase in voter turnout for college-aged voters, there are many organizations aiming to keep those numbers rising.

According to a poll based on the Census Bureaus Current Population Survey, the 18-30 age group had the lowest voter turnout for both the 2000 and 2004 election.

However, the age group also experienced the largest increase in voter turnout between the two elections.

Thus far, it seems the increase might continue.

Coming into this upcoming election, there are a lot of college students that are engaging in this election unlike weve ever seen before, Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh said.

However, just because a person registers does not mean they will go to the polls on election day and cast a vote.

What weve always seen is students get very engaged in the process right up until election day, Thornburgh said. They attend the rallies, support candidates, stuff envelopes and then on election day dont show up.

A Sept. 17 article in The Huffington Post claims the Millennials [the 18-30 age group] comprise almost one-quarter of the potential electorate; by 2015, they will make up one-third of potential voters.

Subsequently, many campaigns have emerged that are geared toward mobilizing young voters and getting them involved.

For instance, Rock the Vote, though it has been around for nearly 20 years, has gained recognition in the past two presidential elections, recruiting celebrities to encourage young people to register and vote.

Using celebrities shows the creative degree to which voting organizations have to bend over backward to reach the 18- to 29-year-old audience, said Ted Johnson, in a Politico article.

Several other organizations have taken a cue from Rock the Vote and enlisted stars to reach out to the 18-30 age group.

WWE created Smackdown Your Vote, which uses wrestling personalities to promote voting as part of the 18-30 campaign.

Rock the Vote has done a nice job, Thornburgh said. Smackdown Your Vote was one of the most effective outreach programs weve had for young people, and it was unique because you were capturing a segment of the population that we hadnt before.

For many Kansas State University students, though, these campaigns are not their motivation for registering, but still provide easy access to the registration process.

Rock the Vote registered me, but I would have registered anyway, said Brett Farmer, senior in philosophy. It was just convenient that they were right there.

Not only do these campaigns not appear to motivate those who are not politically involved to register, but registering young people doesnt guarantee that they will show up at the polls on election day either.

Youve got to get something else a reason to care, said Todd Simon, professor of journalism and mass communications, The key is to give them that something more.

According to The Nation, a weekly periodical on politics and culture, Studies confirm that contact by peers increases the likelihood that young people will vote.

Candidates and campaign organizations are utilizing Web sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube to reach out to college-aged voters.

Because of the increased attention toward youth, the number of 18- to 30-year-old voters increased from 1.1 million to 4.9 million in the Democratic primaries and caucuses, according to The Nation.

For those who do intend to cast their vote, the Kansas deadline to register is Oct. 20, and mail-in registrations must be postarked by then as well.
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