Rock the Vote targets students

Contending that the youth vote could be an important factor in this year's elections, one organization is working to mobilize young adults.

About 20 young people gathered last Tuesday to talk about the importance of the youth vote in the second meet-up for MTV's Rock the Vote at Caf? Luna in Dupont Circle. They included students and people who work for nonprofit organizations, the media, youth activism, education and research.

Rock the Vote is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. David Smith, a former Bay Area street team leader for the group, said, "Rock the Vote energizes young people by involving them in fun events like concerts, and they engage their street teams on a personal level."

The current Rock the Vote campaign, "20 Million Loud," has a goal of motivating 20 million young people to vote after less than 18 million youth voters participated in the 1996 and 2000 elections. Still, there is potential for the youth vote to be a powerful force this year.

The 2000 U.S. Census reported that 1.25 million 25-year-olds voted, compared to 1.07 million 75-year-olds. The Census also found that 1.7 million 29-year-olds voted, compared to 1.5 million 59-year-olds.

Also, a recent survey of undergraduate students at Harvard University found that 82 percent said they will "definitely" or "probably" vote in 2004. Some of the participants at last week's meet-up attended because they thought that getting involved in politics makes sense, especially if they are living in D.C.

"I definitely think it's important for people to get involved and vote, especially freshmen, since it is their first opportunity to vote and get to know the potential elected officials," said AU student Irina Vinpila, who is from California. Stacey Mallon, an AU student from New Hampshire, thinks it is important to understand the issues addressed during the campaigns.

"It's more important for students to be involved and understand politics than to necessarily vote," Mallon said.

Rock the Vote's free meet-ups are scheduled for the first Tuesday every month around the country. For more information about these events and the campaign, visit www.rockthevote.com.

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