The Problem

On the November night of the presidential election in 2004, I was with my friends watching the results come in. As the evening wore on, one of heavily covered stories was the disappointing turnout of young voters. The media painted a grim picture, saying that once again young people didn’t show up. What’s going on here? I asked. With so much at stake, why aren’t we turning out in larger numbers? I felt our generation was incredibly under-represented in the political process. As voters, we had increased our participation in 2004 from 2000, but turnout was still only at 48%, well below the highest percentage of turnout of young voters in history, which was 55.4% in 1972, the first year 18-20 year olds were given the right to vote. 48% is a dismal turnout of a generation that has so much at stake ranging from education to college tuition, from health care to global climate change, a deficit that our generation will have to pay for, and an ongoing war in Iraq. In 2008, there would be 48 million eligible voters between 18 and 29 and by 2020 “millennials” will make up nearly a third of the electorate. With these numbers, I knew that if we became more involved, we could be the game-changer in the electoral process. But I also knew our failure to participate would shut our voice out of decisions affecting us far into our future.

Plan of Action

18 in ’08 started as a film, but has quickly become a truly unprecedented national peer to peer effort to register, engage, and mobilize young voters for the 2008 election and beyond. The centerpiece of our efforts is ongoing screenings around the country featuring on-site voter registration and talkbacks with politicians, candidates, activists, students, and filmmakers. In addition we are undertaking the following initiatives: • College and High School Tour through Fall 2008, in the lead up to the election screening the film on a diverse array of college campuses. Screenings would be followed by voter registration and talk backs with activists, students, politicians, and celebrities. • Major initiative to get copies of the film into high school government and social studies classes throughout the country along with voter education curriculum and educational materials. • Vote Strong bracelet campaign, encouraging voter awareness • Sponsoring and organizing Congressional and Senatorial debates for the fall elections. Questions would be submitted exclusively by 17-24 year olds in specific districts. • Major web video, blogging, and social network initiatives through as well as through high-profile sites including YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook. Including Regularly posting new video content on all major web video sites, this content includes short public service ads featuring politicians and celebrities, man on the street interviews, videos on issues, clips from the film, and edited versions of the interviews used in the film (showing lots of new content from leading interview subjects • Created a viral Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign featuring young celebrities encouraging young people as fellow members of their generation to vote with them. • Text messaging and online campaign with Access 360 Media called Shop the Vote, which encouraged young people to sign up for text messages with political news, campaign news, voter information, and take polls about issues that matter to them. • An interactive online game with in the style of Battleship which engages young people in policy issues and discussions through competitive online gaming. • Launching a peer-to-peer initiative called Friends Ask Friends to Vote campaign encouraging young voters to pledge to ask 20 friends to register to vote every month in the three months leading up to the election To help accomplish all these ambitious goals, 18 in ’08 is constructing extensive partnerships with existing voter mobilization and youth-oriented organizations. We have also created an advisory board with leading figures from politics, entertainment, media, and advocacy organizations.

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