TEEN POWER POLITICS.THE YOUTH VOTE MADE A DIFFERENCE IN MINNESOTA LAST YEAR. WILL IT MATTER IN THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION? EVERYONE BORN BY NOVEMBER 8, 1982, WILL BE ELIGIBLE TO VOTE FOR PRESIDENT IN 2000.
Something really weird happened in Minnesota last year.
No one is saying it's a trend, at least not yet, but it could influence the next Presidential election and change the role of young people in politics in the 21st century.
First, a former professional wrestler called Jesse "The Body" Ventura was elected governor. Ventura, a motorcycle-riding, cigar-chomping, former talk-radio host, ran as an independent, stressing his image as a no-holds-barred political rebel. Second (and this is the really weird part), he won at least partly because of a strong showing among young voters, who are often too turned off to vote at all.
"Jesse Ventura Jesse Ventura (born James George Janos on July 15, 1951), also known as "The Body", "The Star", and "The Governing Body", is an American politician, retired professional wrestler, Navy UDT veteran, actor, and former radio and television talk show host. attracted more than 50 percent of the youth vote," says Seth Maitlins, president of Rock the Vote, a Culver City, California Culver City is a city in western Los Angeles County, California. As of the 2000 census, the city had a population of 38,816. The community is mostly surrounded by the city of Los Angeles but also has a border with unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. , organization that encourages 18-to-24-year-olds to get involved in politics. In a three-way race, 50 percent is considered a landslide.
Whatever you may think of Ventura, he struck many young voters as a "compelling alternative," says Maitlins. "Young people felt he was more likely to best represent their interests."
The reason that's important now is that the 2000 Presidential election is expected to be extremely close. If young people vote in large numbers next year, they could sway the election. And who knows what would happen then?
WHAT POLITICIANS THINK
At the moment, however, no one is terribly worried about a political takeover by the nation's youth. That's because politicians know--or think they know--that young people don't vote.
The evidence backs them up.
In 1971, 18-year-olds won the right to vote with the passage of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution. Since then, young people have consistently ranked as the lowest-voting age group.
In the 1996 Presidential election, when President Clinton was re-elected, only 30 percent of 18- and 19-year-olds bothered to vote. That means 5.1 million 18- and 19-year-olds sat it out.
President Clinton won the popular vote by only 8.2 million--not many more votes than there are eligible teen voters. In one of the closest Presidential elections ever, Democrat John E Kennedy defeated Republican Richard M. Nixon in 1960 by a margin of only 119,450 votes.
Young voters can make an even greater impact in smaller, state or local races. The 3 million potential voters aged 18 to 24 in California, for example, could swing many elections. A good illustration was the 1996 race in which California Democrat Loretta Sanchez Loretta Sanchez (born January 7 1960), an American politician, has been a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives since 1997. She currently represents the 47th Congressional District of California (map) in central Orange County. squeaked by Republican incumbent Bob Dornan to win a seat in Congress by just 984 votes.
THE APATHY FACTOR
Why don't more young people vote? Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate in Washington, D.C., cites several reasons: First, young people don't have as much education as adults--so they don't always understand how the system works. Second, they don't identify with any major party. But mainly, he says, they just don't care
"Don't Care" is a 1994 (see 1994 in music) single by American death metal band Obituary. .
It's a vicious circle A Vicious Circle (1996) is a novel by Amanda Craig which dissects and satirizes contemporary British society. In particular, it describes the world of publishing -- its aspiring young authors, busy agents and opportunist literary critics. . Most young people think they lack the power to influence politics. So they don't vote. That means politicians ignore them and their concerns. Then young people grow even more disillusioned dis·il·lu·sion
tr.v. dis·il·lu·sioned, dis·il·lu·sion·ing, dis·il·lu·sions
To free or deprive of illusion.
1. The act of disenchanting.
2. The condition or fact of being disenchanted. , and more of them don't vote.
Besides feeling powerless, young people simply have other things on their minds. "Teenagers don't dwell on the world of politics," says Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University Rutgers University, main campus at New Brunswick, N.J.; land-grant and state supported; coeducational except for Douglass College; chartered 1766 as Queen's College, opened 1771. Campuses and Facilities
Rutgers maintains three campuses. in New Brunswick, New Jersey This article is about the city in New Jersey. For the Canadian province, see New Brunswick.
New Brunswick, also known as "the Healthcare City" or "Hub City", is a city and the county seat of the County of Middlesex, New Jersey, USA. . "They're famously distracted by other things--academics, sports, getting into college."
ELDERLY PEOPLE GET IT
One of the biggest campaign issues in the next election is how to protect Social Security, a government benefit program mostly for retired workers. Why is Social Security so important? First, of course, because it helps people. But it doesn't hurt that in 1996, when only 30 percent of eligible teenagers voted, 70 percent of senior citizens aged 65 to 74 cast ballots.
The 1998 Minnesota governor's race Noun 1. governor's race - a race for election to the governorship
campaign for governor
campaign, political campaign, run - a race between candidates for elective office; "I managed his campaign for governor"; "he is raising money for a Senate run" raises a provocative question: What if?
"If you suddenly had young people show up at the polls, the entire political process would suddenly have a massive shift," says Richard Kimball Richard Kimball is an American politician, and president of the non-profit Project Vote Smart.
In 1986, after serving in the Arizona Legislature and the state's Corporation Commission, Kimball ran as a Democrat against John McCain for the U.S. , president of Project Vote Smart in Boston, an organization that tracks lawmakers' voting records. "Suddenly you'd find politicians touring high schools."
IF TEENAGERS VOTED ...
Politicians would be listening to teenagers, and campaigning on issues they care about. "Politicians clearly pay attention to voter trends," says Sanjeev Bery of the National Student Campaign for Voter Registration Voter registration is the requirement in some democracies for citizens to check in with some central registry before being allowed to vote in elections. An effort to get people to register is known as a voter registration drive. Centralized/compulsory vs. in Washington, D.C. "If it's apparent to them that students and younger Americans are voting in higher numbers, politicians will turn toward those voters and their concerns."
Their top concerns, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. a 1998 poll of young voters by the Campaign for Voter Registration, are education and student aid. Other key issues of interest to young voters are taxes, abortion, and the environment.
Statistically, young people have good reason to vote next year. The 2000 Presidential election is likely to be a close one because, historically, elections that follow a two-term Presidency usually are. With the turnout of eligible voters lower than ever--about 50 percent for national elections--a single vote will carry more weight than ever.
"No one man holds all the political power, not even the President," says Rachel Grays, 17, of Denver, Colorado. "I'm going to vote because I think it's the voters who have all the power."
So was last year's Minnesota election a fluke? Or do teenagers have more political power than they--and the politicians--realize? Teenagers like Rachel will determine the answer.
ON FURTHER THOUGHT
* If you are 18, are you registered to vote? Will you vote when you're 18?
* What would a politician have to say or do to persuade you to vote for him or her?
* How did the impeachment impeachment, formal accusation issued by a legislature against a public official charged with crime or other serious misconduct. In a looser sense the term is sometimes applied also to the trial by the legislature that may follow. episode affect your opinion of politics?
WANT TO VOTE?
Everyone born by November 8, 1982, will be eligible to vote for President in 2000. But before you can vote, you need to register.
Registration is easy, thanks to the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, also known as the "motor voter" law. The law allows registration in most states by mail, at agencies, and at drivers' licensing offices.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS:
1 First, figure out which party you want to register with. Most states require that you register with a party if you want to vote in the primary elections, Parties hold primary elections earlier in the year to determine their candidates for the general election.
You can register with any party--Republican, Democratic, or others--or as an independent. Consider which party most represents your political beliefs, but also which parties have real primary contests. If one party dominates your state, you may have more of a voice if you register in that party. (If you register as an independent, you won't get to vote in a primary.)
Remember, no matter which party you register with, you can vote for whomever whom·ev·er
The objective case of whoever. See Usage Note at who.
the objective form of whoever: you choose in November.
2 Register. In most states, you can pick up a registration form at many public offices--schools (try your principal's office), libraries, welfare offices, drivers' license bureaus, or the county courthouse. If you need help, call your local election office or the local League of Women Voters League of Women Voters, voluntary public service organization of U.S. citizens. Organized in 1920 in Chicago as an outgrowth of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, it had as its original nucleus the leaders of the latter organization. (both should be in the phone book).
3 Decide whom to vote for. Read the newspaper, think about the issues, and figure out which candidate would best represent you. Two independent resources offer good info: Project Vote Smart is at www.vote-smart.org or 1-888-VOTE SMART. The League of Women Voters is at www.lwv.org or 1-800-249-VOTE.
LOSING MY IDEALISM
SOURED ON NATIONAL POLITICS BY THE IMPEACHMENT FRAY, TEENS ARE TURNING THEIR ATTENTION TO LOCAL ISSUES
The day Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's report about President Clinton hit the Internet, Michael Strong lost his idealism about politics. And as he watched Congress hold its partisan impeachment hearings, his feelings turned to disgust.
"Before this, I kind of had an idealistic view of Washington, of how much they worked together," says Strong, 16, a junior at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. "It's been disillusioning dis·il·lu·sion
tr.v. dis·il·lu·sioned, dis·il·lu·sion·ing, dis·il·lu·sions
To free or deprive of illusion.
1. The act of disenchanting.
2. The condition or fact of being disenchanted. at best. It's kind of upsetting how much they can bicker bick·er
intr.v. bick·ered, bick·er·ing, bick·ers
1. To engage in a petty, bad-tempered quarrel; squabble. See Synonyms at argue.
2. and act like little children."
Teens and political experts agree that the entire impeachment episode has deepened the distrust that teens--and adults, for that matter--feel toward politicians.
But as teens grow alienated al·ien·ate
tr.v. al·ien·at·ed, al·ien·at·ing, al·ien·ates
1. To cause to become unfriendly or hostile; estrange: alienate a friend; alienate potential supporters by taking extreme positions. from the national politics of Washington, D.C., they're channeling their energies where they feel they can do the most good--working on local issues in their own backyards.
Unlike the Watergate scandal Watergate scandal
(1972–74) Political scandal involving illegal activities by Pres. Richard Nixon's administration. In June 1972 five burglars were arrested after breaking into the Democratic Party's national headquarters at the Watergate Hotel complex in Washington, , which forced President Nixon to resign in 1974, President Clinton's impeachment didn't rally young people's political passions. Nor did it stir their feelings the way another past event had. "We don't exactly have a Vietnam War Vietnam War, conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. going on here," says Sarah Newby, 16, one of Strong's classmates Classmates can refer to either:
There is evidence, however, that teens will become involved politically if they can make a difference locally. Teens in Santa Cruz, California Santa Cruz is the county seat and largest city of Santa Cruz County, California, United States.
As of the 2000 U.S. Census, Santa Cruz had a total population of 54,593. , convinced city officials to build them a park where they could skateboard. Students in New Jersey are lobbying the state legislature A state legislature may refer to a legislative branch or body of a political subdivision in a federal system.
The following legislatures exist in the following political subdivisions:
"In national politics, one person really can't make a difference without selling out to party politics," says Rich Siegler, 17, of Chicago, who volunteers as a literacy tutor. "I really prefer to do things on a local level that don't involve changing my values in any way."
For related articles about teen politics, see the UPFRONT web site http://www.nytimes.com/upfront