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Experts Predict Big US Turnout of Young Voters

Political experts are predicting a record turnout of young voters in the November 4th U.S. presidential election. Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican John McCain have made major efforts to reach the more than forty million Americans between the ages of eighteen and thirty. Only about 20 million voted in 2004, when the youth vote was largely ignored. VOA's Ravi Khanna spoke to officials of both parties and to students about the get-out-the-vote drive.

As the race for the White House enters its final phase, experts say the campaigns have fired up the younger generation.

More than 40 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 are eligible to vote. Republican John McCain and Democrat Barrack Obama are trying to win those voters. And the young are responding with fervor.

At Georgetown University, student Jason Starr says young people are frustrated and want to change things, "Not just change the policy, but change the system by which the policy is made. I think that is very powerful for young people," Starr said.

A recent study (by the Harvard University Institute of Politics) shows fifty-five percent of young voters supporting Senator Obama, and thirty-two percent with Senator McCain.

But Democrats and Republicans are still stumping for the young.

Alexandra Ackers is executive director at the privately-funded Young Democrats of America.

She says young people care most about the soaring costs of a college education and healthcare. "We are the most uninsured generation of Americans," Ackers said. "So paying for the rising cost of health care is a big concern. And also the young people are very concerned about the war in Iraq."

She says most young Democrats want to end the war.

Leslie Rutledge is at Young Republicans. She says young people are in sync with the issues driving Republican John McCain, especially on Iraq. "They want to make sure their friends, men and women over there have the things that they need to finish up their job and will be able to come home with honor," Rutledge said.

Georgetown student Jimmy Rollins says both candidates have inspired young Americans.
"Obama for sure brings a message for change and McCain, even having been a more moderate Republican, appeals to more and more young people,"Rollins said.

Young people are using the Internet-- websites like Facebook and MySpace -- to get their friends interested in voting.

So the candidates are also using those websites and their online campaigns to connect to young voters.

Toni Cani is at Young Democrats of America. "We know that a regular ad on TV is not going to impact you in person to get them to the polls," Cani said. "But we know that people they trust - their friends, their peers - saying 'hey, this is the candidate I like,' or 'it is important to vote,' that communication itself has an impact and it is going to get the young people to the polls."

Will young voters turn out in droves? "Probably all the young voters will," predicts
Georgetown student Laura Anderson.