Picture 5.pngBy Kailani Koenig-Muenster — 8/27/08

They were louder than ever. This week in Denver, young
people raised their voice in record numbers. Voters 35 and younger
made up 15% of the convention’s total delegates. That’s up from 11%
in 2004, and 9% in 2000.

“We’re definitely going to bring youthful energy, we’re going to be
loud, and we’re going to be screaming on the convention floor,
especially at the acceptance speech on Thursday,” said Ryan Loney, an
alternate delegate for Barack Obama.

While young people are a demographic that’s notoriously hard to
reach, this year may be different. Many credit the boyish charm of
Barack Obama for finally drawing them in.

“Young people see themselves in Barack Obama. He’s young, he’s
multi-racial, and this is the most diverse generation ever,” said
Alexandra Acker, Executive Director of the Young Democrats of
America.

All week long, numerous political action-oriented groups gathered
to celebrate their candidate and encourage the youth vote.

“Basically we’re here this week to call attention to the young
voter revolution that we’ve been seeing happening all over the country
this year, and leading up to this year over the last couple of
election cycles, where young people have really been starting to turn
out and show their political power,” said Acker.

Other groups like Power Vote are trying to get 1 million young
people to sign a voting pledge.

“Together, young people will turn out in record numbers on November
4th,” said Jessy Tolkan, spokeswoman for Power Vote and Executive
Director of the Energy Action Coalition. “But most importantly, they
will be there beyond November 4th to stand strong, to hold every
elected official in this country accountable, and make sure that we
begin the path of ushering in a clean and just energy revolution in
this country.”

They worked with the Young Democrats of America, Students for
Obama, and countless other organizations to reach out and encourage
more political participation among their peers.

Louisiana’s “Finding Our Folk” project was aimed to attract new
voters through their love of art.

“Being able to use poetry, culture, and music to reach out to young
people… we work with a brass band called ‘To Be Continued,’ great
poets like Sunny Patterson, and we’re using them to engage them in the
conversation,” said Lekedra Robertson, the Finding Our Folk Tour
Organizer.

Few people can picture getting out the youth vote without thinking
of Rock The Vote and MTV. This year MTV is focusing in on certain
issues, specifically young veterans returning from Iraq and
Afghanistan.

While the war and the environment have been on the top of young
voters’ minds for years, another issue has been pushed into the
forefront.

“It really ties back to economic issues for young people,” said
Acker. “But certainly we were one of the first demographics to turn
against the war, it was our friends and family members over there
fighting.”

Rachel Pelham is a college student and California delegate who sees
the candidates paying more attention to her generation’s issues this
year. “Because there’s this groundswell of young people, I think that
our effect is going to be greater,” she said. “We’re going to be
noticed more, and we’re getting a lot more media attention. Our issues
are getting looked at, tuition, things that we care about like the
environment and keeping debt low. “

There’s a lot of talk about registering new voters and inspiring
them to get involved. But will all of this chatter actually translate
to turnout on Election Day?

“I’d rather have you register people to vote and give them an
overview of what a democracy is, and what their role as a citizen in a
democracy is, and what role they play, rather than just signing up
people and saying, ‘I have 2 million voters!'” said Chavie, 19, a
reporter with Youth Radio.

“I know that there’s a lot of organizations that try to push
getting out the vote and getting out the youth vote,” said Loney.
“But what it really comes down to is people who are willing to pick up
a clipboard, get on the ground, take a voter registration form, and
try to register people in their neighborhood, and on their campus. And
that’s what we’ve been doing and that’s what’s really changing the
electorate this year.”

If the numbers give a clue, this year there were 631 delegates
under the age of 36 at the DNC. That’s the highest number of young
people a political convention has ever seen.

Photo Credit:
Joshua Miller, WEBN News
.