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Mock the Vote! Getting the Youth to Vote

10/28/2013 06:49 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

When you think of Georgia, you might imagine roadside peanut stands, fancy debutante balls, and corrupt small-town police departments that traded in softball leagues for competitive racial profiling.

You don't immediately envision a super-progressive state. But it was in fact the Peach State that first allowed 18-year-olds to vote back in 1943. Nearly 30 years later, Uncle Sam caught on and enacted the 26th Amendment, allowing teens across the land to cast presidential ballots, mostly consisting of write-in votes for Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson.

Joking aside, a whopping 50 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds voted in that 1972 election, according to American Demographics magazine. Voting was as cool as protesting wars in patchouli-scented scarves and drag-racing for pinks.

But then something happened. America, and especially its teens and twenty-somethings, became disillusioned. These days only 59 percent of those in this group have actually registered to vote. Even the 2008 Obama blip -- where youth turnout topped 45 percent -- could not sustain itself through the 2012 election.

While these numbers are pathetic, one only needs to tilt his head toward local school board, mayoral and even legislative races to see the true rock bottom of youth voter apathy. Electoral Commission numbers suggest local election turnout among 18- to 24-year-old hovers around 20 percent. And those numbers are more padded than Jan Brady's training bra.

The pundits have different theories as to why suffrage suffers so much for this generation: inconsistent and ineffective voter registration processes, candidates who fail to address issues important to young folks, and even the communication of when and where to vote. (If it's not playing on the Grand Theft Auto 5 radio waves, forget it.)

So sure, you can blame the men and women kissing babies and passing out brochures door to door. But what about the voters who would rather smoke a paper ballot than cast one?

It's easy to get caught up in the cable news crossfire and talking-head-butting over national legislation impacting who you can marry, claim on your taxes and shoot. But it's really the laws written and voted on by our neighbors that heavily influence our everyday lives: quality of public education, tax rates, and whether or not you can race your skateboard down Main Street faster than Marty McFly in a puffy orange vest.

It's not about MTV rocking the vote, but rather how the local school systems, educators and other community outlets can teach students the true importance of understanding how they can impact the laws governing their lives.

It's been done. Napoleon Dynamite got hundreds of cynical teens to vote for Pedro's flimsy platform with some moon boots and Jamiroquai's "Canned Heat."

Now if we can just get him to twerk...

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