We may still have summer on our minds, but today we are two months away from the first voter registration deadlines of the 2010 midterm election cycle.
While we're having plenty of fun at August's festivals and street fairs, Team Rock The Vote is mixing civics with our last moments of sunshine by running the largest, most-aggressive midterm campaign in our organization's 20-year history. For us, it's official: Election season has arrived and we're ready to bring the heat.
Since mid-May, we've had young people organizing on the ground in five states, and combined with our powerful Online Voter Registration widget, we've already registered more than 120,000 voters -- more than doubling the 50,000 we registered in 2006.
We know our mission is critical, since about one-third of 2008's enthusiastic young electorate has already moved to a new residence, thus requiring re-registration, and almost 13,000 young people turn 18 every day.
We've heard whispers that there's an enthusiasm gap, and that young people aren't a bankable constituency any longer. However, we know this isn't true.
Rock the Vote has been around for 20 years (Happy Anniversary, us!), and young people are in no way a political cohort of one-hit wonders. While turnout in all ages groups tends to drop by about 15 percentage points during non-presidential elections, young people have actually increased their participation in midterm years, too. In 2006, there were 2 million more young voters than there were in 2002, a turnout increase four times higher than that of the overall voting population, according to the US Census Bureau.
As we discussed on MSNBC last week (see clip below), research also indicates that young people are still engaged in the political process, but no one has asked them to participate in the Nov. 2 elections. Like any demographic, if candidates strategically target young people, they show up.
So, as we have for the past two decades, Rock the Vote will step in and the critical information that will help them get registered and turn out on Election Day 2010. In anticipation of this election cycle we have:
Upgraded our Online Voter Registration widget that dominated the 2008 election registration efforts with the input of top developers (Open Source Digital Voting Foundation and Pivotal Labs) and elections officials.
*Launched an online action platform, live.rockthevote.com, that allows anyone in the country to sponsor an event with Rock the Vote and invite community members to join.
*Prepared to welcome students back with voter registration efforts at universities like Ohio State, Penn State and University of Central Florida, so that they remember to register for the first time or re-register if they've moved.
*Taught civics and registered voters in high school classrooms through the launch of our Democracy Class program.
*Asked candidates to attend forums in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado, where young people will have a chance to ask politicians questions on the issues they really care about.
*Commissioned polling data that will inform leaders and decision-makers about the key issues effecting young people and tracking their behavior.
*Integrated entertainment into politics by planning a 20th Anniversary Concert Tour that will kick off on Sept. 28.
*Partnered with Trick or Vote to produce door-to-door knocking Get Out the Vote outreach in Halloween costumes to bolster enthusiasm about Election Day.
And that is just the beginning. In 2010, we believe it's our job to galvanize Rockers of all ages -- from those who started with us in 1990 to the first-timers who'll cast a ballot on Nov. 2 -- to embrace their ability to determine the future of our country and show up at the polls. Some say this is unlikely, but armed with the most effective online voter registration tool available, the work of innovative artists, journalists, bloggers, candidates and the relentless spirit of the Millennial Generation, let's just say: You heard it here first.
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