Effort Underway to Boost US Voter Participation

Chris Simkins
The U.S. presidential election is approaching, and political parties and advocacy groups across the nation are making a final push to get people registered to vote and to the polls for the November 6th contest.  Groups are mobilizing to get an underrepresented group of eligible voters involved in the process.

Shakei Haynes is helping college students register to vote in the November election.

He's been doing this since 2005 when he was 16-years-old.  Now he's a political science student at Howard University in Washington. He says the job is getting easier.

"Mobilizing individuals to get registered to vote has not been hard at all because people understand the urgency.  In this election, you have two different contrasting views of what America should look like over the next four years," said Haynes.

Some of these young African-American students will be first-time voters.  Nearly half of the seven million African Americans ages 18 to 30 were unregistered and therefore not eligible to vote, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Shakei says that is unacceptable and young people, especially minorities, should not be underrepresented in the political process.

"A democracy should be reflective of the people who are in it. If we can, you know, make that process a little easier for students then that is our job, and that is the reward at the end of the day," he said.

Howard student Jai Dungey is from New Jersey. She says everyone should know their vote matters.

"Voting is a right, it is a right.  People need to realize that it is not a privilege. We should come together and just take advantage of this right we have been given and people have worked so hard to give us," said Dungey.

Corion Jones is voting for the first time. He's from the battleground state of Ohio.  He feels his vote could help determine the outcome of the election.

"Everyone should be able to express what they want or what they feel in their own country, so the opportunity and the ability to vote is highly important," said Jones.

"Just encourage sort of those last few remaining folks we are trying to reach," said Gail Kitch.

Gail Kitch is chief operating officer with the non-partisan Voter Participation Center in Washington.  Her group launched a voter-registration campaign by mail last year targeting young people of color and unmarried women.

"The young person is sort of primed to think they are ready to participate now, and this kind of a document mailed straight to them is exactly the kind of thing they are going to respond to," she said.

Now the push is on to make sure newly registered voters actually cast ballots in November.
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