DebateChats 2000: William Baldwin on the Youth Vote

Rock The Vote is celebrating its tenth anniversary of mobilizing young people to get involved in the political process. Why aren't more young Americans getting out to the polls? What can be done to make political disengagement a thing of the past? Actor and Rock The Vote board member Billy Baldwin joined us today in a live chat. Also joining the chat: Rock The Vote's Creative Director and Chief Strategist Alison Byrne Fields. Look below for a transcript of the chat.

ABCNEWS’ Jim Sciutto at 2:10pm ET

We're joined now by actor William Baldwin, President of the Creative Coalition and board member of Rock The Vote, an organization working to get young people more involved in the political process. We're also joined by Alison Byrne Fields, Chief Strategist for Rock the Vote. The topic today is youth voter apathy. According to the Federal Election Commission, just 32 percent of 18 to 24 year-olds voted in the 1996 presidential election, fewer even than the paltry 50% of the general population that bothers to vote. Rock The Vote is trying to change that by leading voter registration drives. It aims to register several hundred thousand new, young voters by election day. Thank you both for being here.

William, why aren't young voters interested?

William Baldwin at 2:10pm ET

Well, for a number of reasons. Disillusionment, disenfranchisement, apathy, lack of maturity. They haven't evolved in their lives to a point where they can recognize the significance and the responsibility and the duty of participating in democracy through different ways. Obviously the clearest example would be through voting, but also social and political advocacy and general awareness, knowing world affairs, knowing what's going on in your community and state, nationally and globally, and having some awareness of what's going on around you.

ABCNEWS’ Jim Sciutto Jim Sciutto at 2:14pm ET

What I find interesting is that young people are involved in community service. Eighty percent of high schools reportedly have students involved in community service. Why will young people do community service but not vote?

William Baldwin at 2:15pm ET

There is that trend. I know there was a new Harvard study that showed that public service is on the rise but political advocacy remains steady and low for the 18 to 25-year-old demographic. Which is interesting, and I think it's telling, that there are a lot of young people who are interested in giving something back and being of service through charity and philanthropy and other forms of public service that don't relate to political advocacy. Which is terrific, by the way, I think, and it would be even better if we can get that to translate into the political arena. I think comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation would go a long way toward restoring the trust amongst the electorate, because there definitely is the perception of — you know, there is no more "one man, one vote." What fuels a lot of the disenfranchisement or apathy is a bunch of "what do they have in common with me? It's no more one man, one vote, it's these big corporate fat cats and special interests, and they have all the access and they have all they power, and I have none. So what difference can my voice make and how can I compete with all the big corporations?"

Jim from jf.intel.com at 2:15pm ET

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