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Monday, September 20, 2004

Invisible Voters 

Via our esteemed colleague Hesiod: Why is the news below so encouraging? Because there are forty million potential voters between the ages of 18 and 29. And, as pollster John Zogby recently explained to Jimmy Breslin, many voters in that demographic use cell phones exclusively and are therefore ignored by pollsters, who conduct their surveys on land lines. With Iraq and the possibility of a draft galvanizing young first-time voters, Kerry could be sitting on a substantial lead that no poll reflects:
Voter registration drives aimed at young people are turning 18- to 24-year-olds into an important variable in the presidential election, especially in decisive battleground states such as Michigan where nearly 100,000 young people have registered in recent months and Wisconsin, where the numbers are even higher . . . .

Officials at Rock the Vote a nationwide campaign aimed at young people say they expect registration numbers to surge as deadlines in many states approach. In the first two weeks of September alone, more than 163,000 people filled out and downloaded registration forms from Rock the Vote's Web site. Hans Riemer, the organization's Washington, D.C., director, says that in the past week as many as 20,000 people a day used the site to register.

At that rate, he says Rock the Vote's registration numbers may surpass those from 1992 a year when young voter turnout topped 50 percent for the first and only time since 1972.

One political scientist says he's particularly interested to see what happens this time in Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, where voters can register on Election Day. Data has shown that young people are particularly likely to take advantage of same-day registration.

''It leaves the door open for a surprising outcome,'' says Donald Green, a political scientist at Yale University and co-author of ''Get Out the Vote: How to Increase Voter Turnout.''

Stephanie Camargo, a recent graduate of the University of Florida who opted not to vote in 2000, says she'll be one of those young people who gets to the polls Nov. 2. She has many motivators from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the war in Iraq (where she has a cousin fighting), to peers who are still looking for jobs.

''Before I thought of politics as a game,'' says Camargo, 22, who's registered in Broward County, Fla. ''Now I realize you have to play the game if you want to make a difference.''

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