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Getting out the young vote

Caitlin Ferraro | Wednesday, September 10, 2008

As November 4th – Election Day – quickly approaches, both the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns are upping their game. This year’s presidential race is marketing to young voters in a new way and many outside groups are attempting to get young people to vote.The Rock the Vote campaign, started 18 years ago, is all over this year, encouraging young voters to register and head to the polls to have their voices heard. This organization represents the intersection of young people, pop culture and politics. Rock the Vote works with artists in order to grab people’s attention and engage them in political discussion. The first ever Rock the Vote public service announcement featured Madonna wrapped in an American flag encouraging all to vote. It was also the first organization to introduce telephone and online registration. This year’s Rock the Vote artists include Jack’s Mannequin, Tyler Hilton, Sheryl Crow, Lupe Fiasco, Christina Aguilera, Common, John Legend, Katy Perry and Regina Spektor – all of which appeal to young voters across a wide range of music tastes. There are many other youth focused election resources in addition to Rock the Vote that include 18in08,?Be Counted (a Facebook application), Scholastic: Election ’08,?PBS Blueprint for Civic Engagement, MTV Choose or Lose ’08 and League of First Time Voters. The cast of ABC Family’s hit TV series “Greek” is working together with nonpartisan nonprofit group, Declare Yourself, by filming commercials to air on ABC Family and making their way across the country for voter registration drives at college bookstores. A few members of the cast visited Notre Dame last month.Modern technology has been an important medium to reach young voters. Facebook, which recently hit its 100 million-member mark (a portion of which are over 18), has been one such outlet for expression. Barack Obama and John McCain have their own profile pages for politicians. Did you know that Obama’s hobbies include “basketball, writing and loafing w/ kids,” or that McCain’s favorite TV shows are “24” and “Seinfeld”? The pages also provide links to the candidates’ official Web sites, information about their Vice Presidential running mates, posts on different topics, photos, a wall for member posts and various videos of commercials and speeches. Some have been using the fact that Obama’s 1,728,780 supporters surpass McCain’s 310,541 members on Facebook as evidence that Obama is taking a lead in the campaign. This is, of course, excluding the numerous Facebook groups dedicated to either campaign or against the opposing party, and the many of people who aren’t even on the networking site, but it may reflect something about the voting tendencies of a certain age bracket.Another innovative tool used to appeal to young voters is the all-powerful YouTube. Did you miss Palin’s first speech as McCain’s VP? Or Obama’s acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination? They are easily accessible on YouTube, along with a plethora of other political videos. Since anyone can have an account, anyone can express his or her political views. With all of the political chatter on television today from news programs to talk shows, YouTube is a useful way for voters to navigate through all of the material and select the debates, speeches, or commentaries they are interested in.Many celebrities are taking an active interest in the presidential campaign this year, as they have in the past. While Hollywood stars are certainly not political experts, their support of one candidate can be influential on voters, especially young ones. Several months ago, a group of celebrities led by Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas created a video to Obama’s “Yes We Can” speech. These stars included Jesse Dylan, Common, Scarlett Johansson, John Legend, Kate Walsh, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bryan Greenberg, Eric Balfour, Aisha Tyler, Nicole Scherzinger and Nick Cannon. The video has over 9.5 million hits on YouTube, and illustrates the power music and celebrities can have on reaching an audience. McCain can also count on the votes and support of many celebrities. McCain supporters include, Dean Cain, James Caan, Jon Voight, Adam Carolla, Lacey Chabert, Jon Cryer, Lorenzo Lamas, Kevin Sorbo, Patricia Heaton, Robert Duvall, Spencer & Heidi (from The Hills), and Jerry Bruckheimer. Even celebrity blogger Perez Hilton constantly updates his site with political news. He often has clips of the ladies of “The View” speaking about the presidential race, or interviewing Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain. He also loved when Ellen questioned McCain about his platform on gay marriage, and when Oprah cried at the Democratic National Convention.No matter whether you are supporting Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin or what medium you use to gain your knowledge, we must make an informed vote. To get involved with the campaign for presidency here on campus, become a part of ND Votes ’08, a group to help educate students about key issues and promote enthusiasm for the coming election.