Organization lobbies for youth debate in presidential election

Seventy-seven percent of all voters support making one of the three presidential debates a youth-focused event, a recent poll taken by Third Millennium, in conjunction with the nationwide program Youth Vote 2000, indicated.

The poll, administered by a branch of Third Millennium entitled Neglection 2000, also showed that if this debate were to occur, there would be a significant increase in voter turnout by all age groups.

"Most of us may not vote but damn it, we're important," said Caroline Sims, a freshman in the School of International Service, said.

The youth debate would have an audience consisting of 18-34 year olds. Only members of this age group would be permitted to address the presidential hopefuls, and an experienced young journalist would be the moderator.

The group hopes that bringing in questions that interest this generation will attract more young people to the debates and the campaign in general, according to Russ Freyman, project director of Third Millennium.

"Anything to get more young people to vote is fantastic," seconds Lauren Squires, an AU College of Arts and Sciences sophomore.

Eighty-five percent of young people ages 18 to 34 are in support of a youth oriented presidential debate.

One supporter, Kogod School of Business freshman Danielle Hattle said that "[a third debate] would be good, especially with the large amount of youth voters...it would be good to focus on issues facing them."

If the debates sponsored by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates are held, Youth Vote 2000 and Third Millennium will campaign for the third to focus on youth issues.

"Third Millennium was created as a way of getting people to focus on long term issues that would effect... Generation X," Russ Freyman, project director for the organization, said.

Neglection 2000 began in January as a means to study "the cycle of mutual neglect between young people and the political community," he added.

Neglection 2000 urges political figures to address issues concerning youth, and believes that as a result the youth of America will begin to take more interest in politics.

Youth Vote 2000, the organization behind the myriad groups advocating a focus on young adults in Campaign 2000, has been around since 1992. This year they have seen increased support from many different youth-oriented groups.

"We have expanded to include 60 national organizations and partnerships which represent millions of young people," explained Political and Communications Director John Dervin.

One of these organizations is MTV's Rock the Vote, which is taking its tour bus to 25 cities across the U.S. to promote the youth campaign, as well as funding new public service announcements this fall.

The World Wrestling Federation, whose "Smack Down the Vote" campaign brought wrestling stars to Washington, D.C. last week to discuss youth issues at a press conference, is also a supporter.

Furthermore, Black Entertainment Television has partnered with Black Youth Vote, a Youth Vote 2000 board member, to compile a separate campaign.

"[Young votes] are not on their radar screen," Freyman explained, but "a lot of people are pushing for [the debate]."

"[A youth oriented debate] would be a good idea because... there are a lot of youth around who would want to influence who is going to be president," said Lindsay Nash, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Neither George W. Bush or Al Gore have commented on the poll, but Gore does endorse the Third Millennium program.

The organization also hopes to hold focus groups comprised of 18- to 34-year-oldsat the first two debates in order to judge reactions in a "real-time way" and draw more attention to youth opinions on current issues.

Although the idea of a youth focused presidential debate is still up in the air, members of both Third Millennium and Youth Vote 2000 urged young people to get involved in the upcoming elections as much as possible.

Although candidates have yet to confirm, the first presidential debate is slated for 0ct. 3 at the University of Massachusetts; the second for Oct.11 at Wake Forrest University and the third at Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 17. The vice presidential debate is schedule for Oct. 5 at Kentuckys Centre College.

According to the CPD, 1948 and 1956 were the only public debates among presidential candidates before 1960 and there were no presidential debates between 1960 and 1976.

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