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July 19: Juneau Empire on getting young people to vote:

Posted: Monday, July 24, 2000

One of the great things about a democracy, especially ours, is that everyone gets a voice at the ballot box. Your financial status, marriage status and even your race don't matter. When you go inside that box, your vote counts as much as the person next to you.

Of course, the kicker is you need to register to vote, and then to actually vote. Far too often Americans forget the power they hold at the ballot box. And unfortunately, young people are some of the worst at voting.

In 1996, only 32 percent of those between 18 and 24 cast ballots. That's a number that must be changed, and election officials are pulling out the stops to do just that.

Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, who heads up elections for Alaska, has gotten some pretty heavy-hitting young people to speak up and encourage others to vote as part of the Let's Vote! Alaska campaign targeting 18- to 24-year-olds.

Already Scott Gomez, a 20-year-old All-Star in his first season and reigning NHL Rookie of the Year with the Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils, has filmed a 30-second commercial. Former Juneau-Douglas High School basketball star Carlos Boozer, who just finished his freshman year at Duke University, will also do a spot. Others slated include Cleveland Cavalier Trajan Langdon and Iditarod musher Ramy Brooks.

It's great that these influential young people have stepped up to the plate to encourage their peers to vote. Besides the TV commercials, Ulmer said the campaign will include a mailing, an Internet site and a program called Each One Reach One, where service and civic groups will each adopt young voters to make sure they register and vote.

And just so you don't think one vote doesn't matter, here's some interesting statistics. One vote made English the official language over German; one vote brought Texas into the union; one vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment; and one vote per precinct elected President John F. Kennedy.

Closer to home, in 1978 Jay Hammond won the nomination for governor over Walter J. Hickel in the primary election by just 98 votes statewide; 1.1 votes per precinct elected Tony Knowles as governor and Ulmer as lieutenant governor out of 216,668 votes cast in 1994; one vote gave Mary Ratcliff the 1984 nomination for state representative of House District 12 in the primary election, and one vote in 1996 gave Ann Spohnholz the District 21 House nomination in the primary election.

So, your vote does count. Register and vote.



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