The Youth Vote

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From hauling 12-foot inflatable gorillas to running "Skateboard The Vote" crews, I've worked a variety of campaigns with my peers. And the youth vote is never simple. In 2004, seniors, a demographic similar in size to youth, nearly doubled the juniors in turnout; 2008 brought the youth vote-share up -- one point.

So, we must keep reaching out. Studies show that youth are rarely targeted, but when they are, they vote, as seen in certain races last year. And after voting a few times, they stick with it. Plus, they're expected to comprise one-third of the electorate by 2015.

Groups, and individuals, can help. Anyone can carry registration forms, learn deadlines and how voting-machines work, and what issues concern those under 35. Non-partisan, clear info is best. Not pushy but prepared. Just listening can interest youth in issues.
Social-media remains crucial, notably for civic groups. Having youthful staffs, who offer user-driven platforms to entice youth. And trusting youth to express themselves, and to tailor events for their friends -- and giving them jobs in warm, local, offices.

Their excitement can bring in young relatives, such as non-English speakers, plus other young voters. Night hours can attract students and off-shift helpers, as can hitting big events and concert lines. Local peer contact is best for turning out new voters.

And we can push the media. They should camp out at schools and concerts, in non-swing states, too. That would inform everyone about youth issues. It could even steer candidates from sound-bites, which irk youth -- and non-youth.  Push them from "news" like last year's many stories saying that youth might sleep not vot, or would vote solely for pot, and against politicians who are as old as politicians on CSPAN. Twenty percent did vote, just below the last midterm vote. They gave pot a slight "yes" (it was only their third priority) and they gave older candidates a major "yes."


Young people are busy scraping by, earning or paying off degrees, raising kids. Their voting sites and home states can change often. Still, they care about issues.

And we all can help keep them in the debate and in the booth.

With a Perspective, I'm Craig Kaufman.