Registering The Youthful Vote In Florida

This story was written by Jenny Fedor, Central Florida Future


More than 7,000 students have registered to vote in the 2008 election, in Florida, thanks to the advocacy of the United States Student Association.

The United States Student Association is the country's oldest and largest national student-led organization. They use mobilizing grassroots power to gain victory on student related issues. This year alone they helped register over 100,000 students, nationwide, to vote in just 100 days.

"In the 2008 primaries more than 6.5 million young people have cast ballots, doubling the ballots in past presidential elections," said Carmen Berkley, President of USSA.

This year's election is being billed as having unprecedented student participation by election experts, but student voting has been increasing in number and hitting historical marks since 2004.

"This election is part of a larger trend of increasing youth voter participation. There is a misconception out there that 2008 is the year of the youth vote and it's a unique blip, but in actuality in 2004 and in 2006 there were historic youth turnouts," said Rachel Ackoff, the Electoral Project Director of the USSA. "We expect the youth turnout to continue in 2010 and 2012."

With student voting on the rise, politicians will have to take action on student related issues such as the rising cost of tuition, text books, and student loan interest rates.

"Election day is just the beginning, we can make the establishment work for us by demanding accountability not just empty promises from our president," Berkley said. "Whoever's elected on November 4th needs to know that from day one we are watching and waiting to see if they will deliver for us in the next four years or if we need to find someone else who will. From this election forward politicians will remember that it was the youth that helped them get elected."

From the economy to healthcare to foreign policy and even the appointment of Supreme Court justices, students have a lot to consider when casting their vote.

"I think that young people have the most at stake when discussing and talking about the future of this country because they are the ones that are going to be inheriting the future decisions of the next administration," Bill Shiebler, National Field Director for USSA, said.

Passionate students can be seen all around UCF wearing t-shirts of their favorite candidate and encouraging others to get out there and vote.

"From the beginning, and historically, students have been at the forefront of change in this country and I think that's what we're seeing now. I think a lot of the momentum and excitement we've seen in this election has been ignited by youth from the very beginning," Shiebler said.

Student voters can face different challenges and obstacles when it comes to casting their vote at the polls. Jennifer Rosenberg, Voting Rights and Elections fellow in the Democracy Program, believes voter suppression and misinformation can discourage young voters all together.

"Studies show that a bad experience, the first time a person votes, will make it less likely that they will participate in future elections, but I think that as long as students know their rights, and they're not discouraged and won't take no for an answer, even if the people at the polls aren't sure what the rules are, every person will be able to cast a vote this November and it will be counted." Rosenberg said.

Here in Florida students are faced with No Match No Vote, basically stating that a person can't vote if their ID address doesn't match their registration form address. To help students understand their states rules and procedures the Brennan Center for Justice started an online stdent voter guide.

"The idea of the student voter guide, which is available at www.brennancenter.org/studentvoting, is to give students precise guidelines state by state of what the registration, residency, voter id and absentee laws are in each state," Rosenberg said.

Despite the potential challenges and frustrations students need to know that their vote still counts. Tony Lodico, Pennsylvania Field Organizer for the USSA, believes that student's votes could change the fate of the nation.

"I believe many elections at the federal and local level will be decided by margins smaller than the number of youth that are voting, which means that the youth will have decided this election." Lodico said.
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