Television producer Norman Lear said the campaign, called Declare Yourself, will use entertainment, education and the Internet to inspire Americans ages 18 to 29 to register and vote. Despite his liberal reputation, Lear said the voter drive is nonpartisan.
"If you get a youngster to vote at 18, the chances are much greater that that individual will be a lifetime voter," Lear said. "So there will be every effort to make turning 18 a rite of passage."
Joined at a Washington news conference by actress Drew Barrymore, who will be a spokeswoman for the project, Lear said the effort has already raised $27 million in private and corporate donations.
The effort will include television, an 18-city college campus tour with an original copy of the Declaration of Independence and a live, nationally televised concert next fall. The campaign also produced a short film about voting narrated by actors Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn that will be shown to millions of high school seniors.
Other actors who will participate include Cameron Diaz, Ed Norton, Michael Douglas and Kevin Spacey, Lear said.
The group also launched a Web site Thursday, www.DeclareYourself.com, as a one-stop destination for voters to download and print registration forms for all 50 states, request absentee ballots, find their polling places and learn about the candidates.
Lear, 81, said Declare Yourself is the culmination of his three-year, traveling tribute to the Declaration of Independence. In 2000, Lear and his wife, Lyn, spent $8.14 million to purchase a rare copy of the document and brought it on a tour of 50 cities to inspire more people to vote.
Among young adults, apathy toward the political process has grown, evident in the diminishing number of young voters who have turned up at the polls in the past three decades. In 2000, just 29 percent of eligible voters ages 18-24 turned out. By contrast, slightly more than 45 percent of 21-to-24-year-olds voted in November 1968.
"Getting young people to vote is a sizable challenge," Lear said. "But we're going to move the mountain one rock at a time."
Lear is best known for such politically charged comedies in the 1970s as "All in the Family," "Sanford and Son," "Maude" and "The Jeffersons," which tackled issues such as racial prejudice, abortion, and homosexuality.
A political activist for more than three decades, Lear founded People for the American Way in 1981, a liberal advocacy group that now claims 600,000 members.
By Sam Hananel