National competition seeks to lure young voters to polls

Text messaging and “parties at the poll” are just two of the voter registration ideas that won recognition in Young Voter Strategies first-ever national competition aimed at supporting innovative nonpartisan strategies to register voters ages 18 to 29.

Thirteen groups from all around the country were selected for using creative ways to encourage young people to go to the polls. The announcement of the competition winners last week coincides with the 35th anniversary of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the national voting age to 18 years.

Young Voter Strategies Spokesperson Kathleen Barr said the organization said ideal candidates were both ambitious and had a clear aim.

“(We) looked for groups with strategic and innovative projects to target significant numbers of young voters,” Barr said. “Additionally, we looked for groups who could reach out to specific subsets of young people, so not youth as a homogenous bloc.”

Each of the thirteen winning groups target a different young voter demographic including young African Americans, community college students, Latinos, Evangelical youth, high school seniors, four-year college students, tech-savvy mobile phone users, young single women and others.

Young voters Strategies winning groups include Mobile Voter and Music for America, Redeem the Vote and the Center for Civic Participation, The Close Up Foundation, The American Association of State College and Universities, the state Public Interest Research Groups and Allegheny College’s Center for Political Participation.

Barr said that while this specific project is focused on registering young people to vote and not necessarily candidate and issue information, many of the winning organizations do some form of nonpartisan voter education.

After 2006 elections, GW’s Graduate School of Political Management – which organized the competition – plans to unveil a “Young Voter Toolkit” based on analysis of each project. The toolkit is intended to help decision makers, opinion leaders and nonprofits to incorporate fine-tune strategies for the 2008 election.

Dr. Christopher Arterton, Dean of the Graduate School of Political Management said in a statement that “Generation Y is large, increasingly active and up for grabs politically,” and that “parties should take note – in today’s evenly divided electorate, whoever wins over young voters today will win close elections in the short run and likely be the party in power in the long run.”

Generation Y generally refers to the last group of Americans born wholly in the 20th century and are all under 30 years old. Currently counted at 71 million, the demographic is projected to make up 25 percent of the population by 2016.

Research from Harvard University found that young adults 18 to 29 years old generally split themselves up into thirds identifying themselves as Democrats, Republicans and independents.

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