In the upcoming U.S. presidential election, both major parties are making concerted efforts to reach younger voters. Party activists are blogging, texting, and using social network sites to get the message out to those who may have never voted. Young activists, in Denver for the Democratic National Convention this week, say they are excited to be part of a historic campaign, but they also have many serious issues on their minds including the economy and the war in Iraq. Lisa Ferdinando reports from the convention in Denver.
Tony Payton, 27, is the youngest member of the Pennsylvania state legislature. A delegate for Senator Barack Obama, he says he is a representative of young voters, as well as the 60,000 people in his district in Philadelphia, where crime and the economy are key issues. The young state lawmaker says he has an important role in Denver, at the first national convention he has attended.
"It basically is a symbol to young people that it's possible to have a place in politics and that our voice is just as important as everyone else and that we are the future of this party, and so we should be leading it now," he said.
Marine Corps reservist Alex Cornell du Houx, 25, has weighty issues on his mind, including medical care of those who have returned from war, education benefits for veterans, and preventing homelessness for those who served in the military. Ending the war in Iraq is a major goal of his. He served for one year in Iraq.
"I think Obama has a solid plan to deal with the situation in Iraq and he has some very good advisers with him who are going to help him get the specifics and what we need to do according to the military getting out of Iraq in a timely manner," he said.
Not all the young people in Denver are as excited about the Democratic Party or Barack Obama. On Sunday more than 1,000 people protested outside the convention site - angry with both major parties for their foreign and economic policies.
The campaigns of both Barack Obama and Republican Senator John McCain are making special efforts to reach young voters. As expected, Obama's young supporters are vocal and visible here in Denver. But a recent poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics indicates that while Obama is leading McCain among young voters, with the support of 55 percent of those under 25 years old, McCain has significant backing as well: 32 percent, while 12 percent were undecided.
Young activists of both parties try to generate excitement by organizing events and registering first-time voters. In Denver, Jen Johns, 21, a student at the Ohio State University, says her excitement about politics started four years ago with the last presidential election.
"I really get energized by the Democratic Party. When I first got out of high school, I was involved in the 2004 election trying to elect John Kerry and from there I was just hooked," she recalled. "I'm so excited about Barack Obama with this upcoming election. The youth vote is energized and it's something that I have never seen in my young life, so it's exciting."
She says the use of social network sites and other new technologies has helped get new voters excited about national politics.
"Just organizing on campuses as we got ready for the primaries, as we've been getting ready for the general [election], we've been focusing so much on Facebook, MySpace - it's just an easy way to reach our kids, they are on it, some 24 hours a day, so it's easy to reach them," she noted.
Through blogs and on social networking pages, both Democrats and Republicans are making it clear they want young voters, and are willing to listen to their voices.