Nation’s youth get involved in Pennsylvania primaries
This year’s elections have seen an unprecedented level of excitement among the nation’s youth. This election atmosphere has prompted a number of national efforts to inform, encourage, and indulge today’s youth with election information.
Several different grassroots efforts have emerged designed specifically to engage and inform young voters.
Declare Yourself ((www.declareyourself.com)) is a non-partisan organization designed to encourage 18- to 24- year olds to register to vote. The website provides up-to-the minute election coverage, including both national news and state-by-state information about primaries and other area events.
In addition, students can use the site to register to vote online in any of the 50 states. Based in Los Angeles, the organization has major celebrity sponsorship, and young celebrity voters such as Hayden Panettierre, America Ferrera, Wilmer Valderrama, and Christopher Charles Mintz-Plasse (better known as McLovin of Superbad) star in short videos and make frequent media appearances on behalf of the organization.
The group will be hosting a concert to increase political consciousness in Pittsburgh this July.
Rock the Vote ((www.rockthevote.com)) places similar emphasis on getting young people to vote on Election Day. The website includes links to register as well as information about how to become a campaign volunteer in different areas of the country. The group was founded in 1990 and is based in Washington, D.C.
Project Vote Smart ((www.votesmart.org)) encourages citizens, both young and old, to take an active role in reforming democracy in the United States. The project often takes stances on issues that are in opposition to the views and actions of the current administration.
“I think it is important for young people to get involved. We as young people have a chance to control how our futures will be by electing the next president,” stated William Hum, a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering, in an e-mail.
Hum is a Clinton supporter, and acknowledged that he will be voting in the Pennsylvania primary. He added that young voters are more excited this year than ever before, particularly for the Obama and Clinton competition.
Maria Mauro, a sophomore biology and political science major and co-founder of Students for Barack Obama, and Zenobia Bell, a junior political science major and president of College Democrats, agreed.
“Youth is running this campaign. We want people to take ownership of this campaign and take a vested interest in politics. We are going to control how the next generation sees our country,” Mauro said.
“People always say politicians don’t care about young people, but young people may not care about politicians,” Bell said. “There are historical things happening in terms of the role of youth, and we need to make sure we get our voices heard.”
Bell acknowledged that the youth vote and all voters particularly in Pennsylvania will play an important role in this year’s election, as the winners of the Pennsylvania primary are often indicative of the final national results.
But while certain groups of students are politically active on campus with regard to the upcoming election, the Carnegie Mellon student community seems to have trouble keeping students involved in politics in non-election times. College Republicans is now defunct, and College Democrats, led by Bell, collapsed after four members of the group’s executive board quit.
Now, Bell wants to take steps to rebuild the executive board and connect with students at Carlow College and the University of Pittsburgh to plan bigger events to raise students’ political awareness.
Mauro believes the Carnegie Mellon campus is anything but apathetic.
“People know a lot more than we give them credit for, and being undecided isn’t being apathetic,” she said. “This is an intelligent place. People know a lot and are questioning specifics.”
While it’s too late to register to vote in time for the Pennsylvania primary, students can still register to vote in the general election this November. To register to vote online in Pennsylvania, visit the Department of State’s website at (www.dos.state.pa.us/voting). To register in any of the 50 states, visit (www.declareyourself.com).