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After playing a pivotal role in voter registration and turnout this past November young people are continuing their electoral work by heading down to Salem Tuesday to lobby in support of HB 2386 which directs the Secretary of State to adopt an electronic voter registration system.
According to a new analysis by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), the number of voters under 30 who showed up at the polls in 2008 increased by approximately 11 percent, while the number of older voters who cast a ballot increased by only 3 percent.
In Oregon, young voter turnout rates rose 4.2 percentage points between 2004 and 2008 - twice the national average (2 percentage points). Moreover, between 2000 and 2008, Oregon youth turnout rates increased by an overall 11.2 percentage points. This marked a continuous upward trend for three consecutive Presidential elections.
This steady increase in turnout increase helped Oregon youth fuel the biggest decrease in youth vote gap in the nation in 2008. In 2004, 25% more older voters cast ballots than younger voters. In 2008, that number shrunk to 10.3%, a larger decrease than any other state. This change amounts to a remarkable testament to the work done by young volunteers across Oregon.
“The trend clearly shows that Oregon’s young people are turning out in bigger and bigger numbers,“ said Kelli Horvath, Southern Oregon University Student Body President and Chair of the Oregon Student Association Board of Directors.
Several factors - from increased attention paid to young voters by candidates to the proliferation of technology in the lives of young voters to a rise in civic engagement among young people - contributed to this surge.
Student leaders with the Oregon Student Vote Coalition – made of the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG), the Oregon Student Association (OSA), and the Bus Project helped drive this increase with an intense young voter mobilization effort on college campuses and at youth-heavy events.
“Oregon students helped make this surge by combining old-fashioned pavement pounding with technology to reach the wired world of the young voter,” said Charles Denson, a Lane Community College student and Chair of the OSPIRG Board of Directors, “Students stormed dorms and classrooms and employed a cadre of tech tools - from Facebook to ‘text out the vote’ tables to urge their friends to the polls.”
The Oregon Student Vote Coalition stressed that there is more work to be done. “Young volunteers and voters showed in 2008 that we want to play a big role in our democracy,” said Henry Kraemer of the Bus Project, “To continue this trend, government needs to meet young citizens half way with structural changes like online voter registration.”
The Oregon Student Vote Coalition uses old-fashioned techniques like canvassing, technology like text messaging, and fun events like Trick or Vote to connect young citizens to their government through voting, volunteering and civic leadership. This work continues in front of the Senate Rules Committee Tuesday May 12th at 5pm.
See OSPIRG Student Chapter Board Chair Charles Denson's blog post on electronic voter registration.
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