DebateChats 2000: William Baldwin on the Youth Vote

Hmm. I think that young people are — again, it's that young people do not see the act of voting as an act which will help them to accomplish their goals. We were talking earlier about the increase in community service among the youngest generation, and with those numbers, when you ask young people why it is that they are volunteering, serving soup in soup kitchens, they say that they get a sense of gratification, that they see results occur. So I think that young people just are not able to see the results of voting, and they want to.

Heather from dialup.snfc21.pacbell.net at 2:42pm ET

Do either of the speakers want to comment on what can be done to engage young people before they reach voting age?

Alison Byrne Fields at 2:45pm ET

We launched a program a couple of years ago that we call "Rock the Vote Every Day," with the idea being that we wanted to divert some of the attention from the isolated act of voting, and look at voting as being one of a set of actions that young people can take. And so that campaign focused on true stories of young people around the country who were identifying issues in their community that needed to be addressed. So we were definitely targeting young people under the age of 18. In addition, young people themselves are calling for better civic education in high school, even the very basic information about how and where to register, where to vote — very basic information that they don't feel they're getting through schools. And finally there are programs such as Kids Voting USA, which enable parents to model the act of voting for young people by setting up polls for kids under the age of 18 to go with their parents to vote on Election Day and do sort of a mock vote. Because the act of voting is something that is passed on. Young people are more likely to vote if their parents are voting.

58177H from proxy.aol.com at 2:45pm ET

Do you think it's more important to get young people involved in local or national politics?

Alison Byrne Fields at 2:46pm ET

Well, in terms of the idea of immediate gratification, it's easier to illustrate that, for young people with local elections. There was a story that we tell about a group of young people in Kentucky that wanted to have a teen center built, and there was an upcoming city council election. They realized that one of the candidates was supportive of the idea of a teen center, and so they decided to actively campaign for this man, going out in the streets, registering voters, knocking on doors. He was elected, and they got their teen center. So there was that sense of cause and effect more easily demonstrated.

William Baldwin at 2:47pm ET

I think that's precisely what needs to be demonstrated for the 18 to 25 demographic. You have to show them how voting and how participating in the political process affects their everyday life; how there can be a cause and effect; how there can be tangible results from their participation.

William Baldwin at 2:52pm ET

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