Presidential campaigns target Generation-Y voters
Due to feelings of disenfranchisement with mainstream politics, voter turnout among young people is projected to rise only slightly this year, according to a July 31 report released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The report, which summarizes voter activity for the November 1996 elections, stated that slightly over 12 million 18- to 24-year-olds registered to vote; less than 8 million, however, were reported to have actually voted.
This year, several thousand members of this age block, known as "Generation Y," will come of voting age, making this generation a highly indispensable commodity for both Bush and Gore.
In response to the importance of this young electorate, both Bush and Gore have launched initiatives designed to draw Y's to the voting booths and into their respective campaigns.
"Their involvement is extremely important," explains Devona Dolliole, Deputy National Spokeswoman for Gore/Lieberman 2000. "We not only value them as voters, but we have several recent graduates and young interns helping us to achieve our goals."
In an attempt to reach out to young voters, Dolliole stated, the Gore campaign has designed several innovative organizations and events to mobilize and organize.
"Well, Karenna [Gore Schiff], Al Gore's daughter, spearheads "Gorenet" which is geared toward young people and promotes an online exchange of ideas as well as support for the Vice President," Dolliole said. "We also have a program called "Students for Gore" in which students from hundreds of college campuses work to garner support, register voters and get other young people excited."
"We have even offered to present a debate between Vice President Gore and Governor Bush in conjunction with Youth Vote 2000 and MTV, but Governor Bush has not yet accepted our offer."
Ken Lisaius, spokesman for Bush/Cheney 2000, disagrees with Gore's apparent allegation of Bush's indifference to the youth vote.
"Right now, we're in the process of actively seeking young voters. We have started a program called 'Students for Bush.' This program has branches in all 50 states and is organizing in targeted campuses-making sure students know the issues and know Bush's positions."
Youth voter apathy can be attributed to the recent discord within and right outside of the White House, according to Lasaius.
"Young people tend to be turned off by the partisan tone of Washington. They know that the way to change that is to elect an new administration."
Citing July's CNN/USA Today poll, Lasaius said 64 percent of 18 to 24 year-olds support the Texas governor while only 30 percent support Gore.
"Education is his number one priority, and he's willing to focus on the issues important to students," Lasaius said.
While several of their counterparts take a blas outlook on voting, AU students were quite resolute in their determination to vote.
"I think it's a great right and a civic responsibility," said Sean Farrell, a senior in the School of Public Affairs. "The only people who have a right to complain are the people who vote all the time."
Kyle Rys, a junior in the School of Communication, had a different perspective. "Yeah, I'll probably vote, because it's the first time I'm going to vote-being of age and all. I may not be as interested in the issues as much as I am in the character of the people who are running."
Opinions are varied on which candidate AU students feel has done the best job of youth voter outreach.
"I'd give that to Gore, I think," said Karin Hill, a senior in SOC. "I don't have enough money to interest [George W. Bush]. You know, I don't think he can relate to the poor college student thing."
Benjamin Wetmore of SPA disagrees. " I think Bush has made a real effort; a sincere effort to address the concerns of the young and old."
Hill sums up the primary motivation to vote for many AU students this November. "It's my duty," she said.