Every election season, analysts ponder how things might have been different if young people had bothered to vote. But this year may be different. With passions running so high, few analysts expect the youth vote to stay as flat as before.
If the massive new voter registration figures across the U.S. are any indication, the analysts are right. For example, from January through June of this year, the battleground state of Florida registered a whopping 204,000 new voters -- 129,000 Democrats and 75,000 Republicans.
Another key swing state, Nevada, has also seen a record increase in the numbers of new voters registering. Similar data is coming out of Michigan, Ohio and North Carolina.
With all this activism comes a renewed push for the youth vote. A series of high-profile concerts, the Vote for Change tour, is scheduled for battleground states like Florida and Ohio. Specifically intended to remove George W. Bush from the White House, the tours include artists such as Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., and Pearl Jam.
In addition to MTVs usual Rock the Vote registration campaign, rapper P. Diddy has embarked on a more partisan attempt to stimulate youth voter registration. Unlike MTVs lip service about being nonpartisan, P. Diddys Vote or Die makes little attempt to disguise its anti-Bush leanings.
But the Bush camp has weighed in also, with a massive ad buy on MTV specifically designed to appeal to college-age voters.
Activists at local colleges are sensing opportunity as well, and they tell Connect Savannah that interest on campus is high, but theres still a long way to go.
We estimate that 20 percent of AASU students are registered -- at best, says Jolene Burge, president of the AASU College Democrats.
Our goal is to double that in the next five weeks. That means registering 1300 students before October 2, she says.
Specifically, Burge says methods will include voter registration booths in high traffic locations, such as the cafeteria and Shearouse Plaza, as well as booths in Gamble Hall to attract evening students.
Burge says College Democrats will also be going door to door at Compass Point, the campus dorms. Finally, we plan to ask as many professors as possible to give us three to five minutes of their class time to talk about the importance of registering and voting.
AASUs College Republicans are just as busy as their counterparts, says president Regina Kill.
Every Tuesday from 2-5 p.m. we sell Chick-fil-A sandwiches in the cafeteria, and at the same time people can get registration forms and absentee ballots, Kill says. We also offer voter guides and information about local Republican candidates as well as George Bush.
Kill says response so far has been good. People come up and ask questions. This is very proactive, and people seem appreciative of that, she says. Whether they agree with the Republican stance or not, they like the fact that we have a registration drive. Sometimes theyre drawn in by the Chick-fil-As, and then start asking questions, like Im not registered, Im going to be overseas or out of town, what should I do?
Burge of the College Democrats says even though Georgia is a solid Bush state, one should never underestimate the sleeping giant that is the youth vote.
The last time a massive amount of young people got involved and voted, Georgia went to Clinton in 1992. Our goal is to empower young people, and let them know that they can make a difference, she says.
We know that young people favor Kerry to Bush 2-1, so the more students we register, the greater impact the youth vote will have for the Democratic party, she says.
Registering to Vote
Deadline to register for this presidential election is October 4. Registering in Georgia is easy. You need to be a resident and be at least 18. You do NOT need to declare party affiliation in Georgia.
The state of Georgia offers a quick and easy fillable PDF form for registration at:
Fill out the form, print it, sign it and mail it to:
Secretary of State
1104 West Tower, 2 Martin Luther King Drive, S.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30334-1505
Or bring the form to the Chatham County Board of Registrars at 415 W. Broughton.
There is a National Voter Registration Form for those who are out of their home state but need to register there. Go to www.eac.gov/register_vote_forms.asp and click on For Public Use to download a PDF of the form.
Absentee & Early Voting
A new law in Georgia allows you to vote in person during the week prior to the election at the Board of Registrars at 415 W. Broughton. You dont have to give a reason. Note, however, that you may not vote early on the Monday before the election.
To vote absentee, you first must apply for an absentee ballot. Go online and fill out the PDF at www.sos.state.ga.us/elections/elections/voter_information/absentee.htm and print it out and sign it. You must provide a reason as to why you cant vote in person that Tuesday, such as being out of town or having a job that precludes you from doing so.
Mail or hand-deliver the absentee ballot application to:
Chatham County Board of Registrars, 415 W. Broughton St., Savannah, GA, 31401.
Voters Self-Defense Manual
An independent and nonpartisan group, Project Vote Smart, has a neatly packaged, comprehensive voters guide available at its website at www.vote-smart.org.
The Voters Self-Defense Manual is free of charge and you can request a copy through the website. The Manual is designed to give citizens a sneak preview of the millions of facts on 40,000 candidates and incumbents that Project Vote Smart has accumulated since its founding in 1992.
The founding board of Project Vote Smart included Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, Newt Gingrich and Geraldine Ferraro. Each new board member is inducted along with an ideological opposite to ensure balance.