Voter Initiative Groups Target Iowa Youth Vote

This story was written by Nick Hasty, Iowa State Daily


Youth voters need a little push.

Organizations such as STOPandVOTE.org and New Voters Project, a branch of Iowa PIRG, are trying to reach out to the 18-29 age group to get them to vote this November. The efforts of these voter initiative groups are focused on college campuses across the nation.

More than 130 college campuses across the nation are being reached by New Voter Project, said Devren Hobbs, PIRG campus organizer at Iowa State University.

This is by far the biggest effort we have had yet, Hobbs said. Our goal is to get a record turnout of young people.

The goal of the New Voters Project is to help add to the number of college students registered to vote, she said. She said she wants to get 90 percent of college students registered to vote.

According to newvotersproject.org, studies done at Yale by political science professors Don Green and Alan Gerber suggest that a large-scale peer-to-peer effort of voter contact, targeted at young people, can make a significant difference in the turnout rate of young voters.

Our strategy is reaching out to students on a one-to-one level, Hobbs said. The biggest reason why college students dont go out to vote is because they dont know they can register from their college addresses.

Hobbs said statistically about 80 percent registered students actually vote. She said she would like to increase that number by making calls, knocking on doors and making other efforts as the election draws closer with the help of the Get Out To Vote campaign, which is another branch off of PIRG.

Other groups such as STOPandVOTE.org have begun a voting campaign to get college students to register and vote.

Were trying to soak this in oil and were hoping that people will take ownership of it and light it on fire said Yasin Abbak, senior in political science, economics and middle eastern studies at Drew University, and one of the co-creators of STOPandVOTE.org. Were just trying to get people to be aware that there are issues that they should care about and that they should be educated about.

The reason young voters dont vote is due to their apathy and disconnect from politics in general, Abbak said. Some are discouraged because they dont think their vote counts, he said.

STOPandVOTE.org invites visitors to create their own customizable viral voting message to send to their friends.

The e-cards are definitely a fun way to get the message out, he said.

As of Sept. 22, more than 200 viral voting messages have been created and the Web site has pulled in over 1,300 visitors, according to a press release.

Those numbers have grown by a large margin, Abbak said.

He noted that the viral voting messages are hard to add up because some of the messages are sent to multiple people at one time.

In addition, a Facebook group has been created to generate buzz over the organizations efforts. There are currently 649 members in the group.

The organization is the creation of 10 college students from various college campuses who are interning at The Concept Farm, a New York communications company.

We really took ownership of it, Abbak said. Whats cool about the site and the movement is that its by people our age for people our age.

The effect of STOPandVOTE.org really depends on how much ownership this generation takes of it, Abbak said.

We want them to use STOPandVOTE.org as a tool, Abbak said. This is as much your project as it is mine.

Dianne Bystrom, director of the Catt Center for Womens Studies, said the reason the youth vote is a priority for thee organizations is that 47 percent of the 18-24 age group voted in the last presidential election.

The reason is they had an all time high in the last presidential election, Bystrom said. The best way to reach out to youth voters on campus is through peer-to-peer contact.

Bystrom said voters in college are easier to impact on campuses because of the concentration of young people.

Were sort of in a contained environment on campus, with a high concentration of people, she said. The youth in college has a higher voter turnout than the youth not attending college for this reason.

Bystrom said she is confident in the turnout for youth voters this year.

Right now I feel pretty good about the youth vote, Bystrom said.
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