Washington wants more young voters

Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2002

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Thirty years after 18-year-olds won the right to vote in the United States, they're not exactly lining up at the polls.

Last year, 18 percent of registered voters ages 18 to 24 cast ballots in the Washington general election, compared with 44.5 percent overall, said Dean Logan, the state elections director.

In Yakima County, the 18- to 24-year-old turnout was only 7 percent.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, hoping to change what he calls such discouraging numbers, is visiting high schools in the Seattle, Yakima and Vancouver areas this week with a get-out-the-vote road show.

On Tuesday, Reed was joined by Olympic skiers Phil and Steve Mahre, both now in their 40s, touting the power of the ballot box at 1,600-student Davis High School.

From high school homecoming royalty to the TV shows ''Survivor'' and ''American Idol,'' voting is everywhere, Phil Mahre said.

On ''American Idol,'' viewers can go online to cast their votes for their favorite talent.

''How many of you took the time to do that?'' Mahre asked. And yet, ''it means absolutely nothing in your life. It means nothing to your country or your community.''

It's important to make time to vote in elections that do matter, he said.

Nathan Hein, 19, stopped at the voter registration table outside the high school auditorium and said he wanted to register to vote in the Nov. 5 general election.

''I just want to make sure the right people get elected, and people who know what they're talking about,'' he said.

Melina Markand, 18, said she's always been politically active and figures now she ought to be registered to vote, too.

''I was going to. I just never got around to it,'' she said. ''It's hard to remember. I think about school and friends and stuff. Voting is not really my first priority.''

In the coming months there are at least three major issues on the federal and state levels that could directly affect young people and should be incentives to vote -- a decision on a possible attack on Iraq; the future of college tuition and enrollment; and the economy and the job market, he said.

''All of these things are affected by elected officials,'' Reed said.

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