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Editorial: Youth Increased Voting Numbers, But Not Enough

This story was written by Editorial Board, Kentucky Kernel

The youth of America are known for having passionate viewpoints splattered creatively across T-shirts, posters, Myspace profiles and YouTube videos. What they are not known for is showing up at the polls.

But this election was supposed to be different, early predictions said. This election, the youth of America was going to care.

And they did but not a whole lot more than usual.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University estimates between 22 and 24 million young voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted on Nov. 4. This number is up about 2.2 million people from the 2004 election said to be historic in young voter turnout but still, only 49 percent of young registered voters turned out, CIRCLE projects, up just over 8 percent since the 2000 general election.

This means the youth of America votedjust not everyone who said they were going to.

But it is hard to be critical. After all, this years voter turnout was the highest ever among young voters, said Stephanie Young, communications associate of Rock the Vote, an organization that encourages young voters to register and cast their ballots. And it was President-elect Barack Obama who is to thank for the surge in young voters, who in turn helped elect him to victory.

President-elect Obama did a good job in his campaigning by reaching out to young people and making them feel important and feel like they were a part of his campaign, Young said Friday.

Obamas team revolutionized campaign donations by allowing young people to donate $1 or $5 on his campaign Web site, instead of $100,000 or $500,000 at candidate fundraisers and benefits. Facebook groups and candidate Myspace profiles featuring YouTube campaign commercials revolutionized how candidates could reach out to the voting public, especially to those young voters who spend hours on these social networking sites.

If the youth came out in historic numbers, it was in response to efforts from candidates in a historic election.

So 22 million young voters came out to vote for a candidate who best represents their economic, job-finding and health care needs. They turned out to vote for the candidate who supported their viewpoints on the war in Iraq, on the rising cost of oil and on the price of higher education.

Now the election is over and those young voters who committed to casting a ballot on Nov. 4 must stick to that commitment and hold the new president accountable for the promises he made. And all of those people who posted links to campaign Web sites, sported I heart Sarah Palin T-shirts, argued politics with their friends over lunch, but refused to take the time to stand in line for the real vote on Election Day, can stop complaining.

Next time make the early predictions true. Next time, vote like you said you were going to and the youth of America can really make history.

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