By Maria Carabelli – UPI
During the 2004 presidential election, only 47 percent of youth ages 18-24 voted and only 66 percent of those aged 25 or older took to the polls, according to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement Web site. These statistics concern Jason Warren, communication instructor at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., who at 26 years old is a young voter himself. With 30,000 students the university is home to a plethora of young voters, many of whom will have the opportunity to vote for the first time in November.
Warren, who was recently recognized as Outstanding New Coach of the Year by the American Forensics Association, teaches students the value of their voice and the ethical obligations of their First Amendment right to free speech. This semester as the presidential campaigns heat up, his free speech and ethics class has no shortage of material to discuss.
As a student in George Mason’s doctoral program in communication, Warren understands there are many life events that might prevent a person from physically going to vote but he also says there is a false ideology that young votes do not make an impact. “Young voters feel they have no personal stake and they feel their vote doesn’t make a difference,” Warren said. He also believes that young voters are less educated about the election and he uses his position as an educator to help his students understand the importance of their vote.
Yet, he can only do so much. The candidates, he asserts, need to find ways to engage young voters and make them feel included in the democratic process. In Warren’s eyes, Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama, has an edge over his Republican Party opponent John McCain. U.S. Sen. Obama, according to Warren, put the spotlight on young voters by working to increase the number of registered young voters and by talking to them about issues that are important to them, such as the economy, education, foreign relations and the War on Terror.
U.S. Sen. McCain, however, has a slightly more uphill battle as his party must be able to convince a skeptical audience that they are a party of change, said Warren. Regardless of either candidate’s current position with young voters, the questions remain: Will young people voice their opinions? Will young people vote in November, or will they continue to give into the idea that they are a powerless demographic?
If Warren has anything to say about it, young people will vote. His students who stand with him in line at the polls will be those who understand the power of free speech, ethics and the right to vote.
From: The Voice of the Young Voter
Published: Sept. 18, 2008 at 5:36 PM