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Young would-be Nevada voters sought

Jeff Munson

While political parties are looking to their respective bases for support, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization has identified one demographic that could play a major role in determining which candidate will garner the state’s five electoral college votes.

The New Voters Project has identified Nevada and five other states as having a disproportionate number of 18- to 24-year-olds who voted in the 2000 presidential election. In Nevada, 31 percent of those in that age bracket voted.

With $4 million in seed money from the Pew Charitable Trust, the New Voters Project hopes to bring that number to 36 percent in Nevada.

Ivan Frishberg, development and outreach coordinator for Denver-based New Voters Project, said “The states that were selected were among the states with the lowest voter turnout. Out of the six states that we have selected, Nevada had the worst turnout in the age group.”

James Healy, field organizer for Nevada’s chapter of New Voters Project, became involved after graduating with a political science degree from Columbia University. The plan is to develop a grass-roots strategy of organizing and mobilizing volunteers to canvass the state, especially in areas with a high concentration of young people.

“Our job from now until the election is to get the word out that voting is a fundamental right we have living in a democracy, and it is up to our generation to see to it that we maintain the health and well-being of this country,” Healy said.

While Nevada’s chapter is headquartered in Las Vegas because of its large population base, the Reno and Lake Tahoe areas will be heavily targeted. Healy has created a network of volunteers and paid canvassers – mostly University of Nevada, Reno, students – whose mission it is to find places where young people hang out and ask them if they want to register to vote.

“We’ve identified target areas where young adults congregate and recreate – concerts, cafes, bars and in the Tahoe area, ski resorts – where we will send our people out to get voters registered,” Healy said.

The New Voters Project also has commitments to partner with corporations such as Wal-Mart and TV networks such as MTV.

For 22-year-old Healy, putting his college degree to work in a project for the greater good is worth it.

“With the abysmally low voter turnout in 2000, a vast majority of my peers are not being represented in politics in this country. This is not just disappointing, but dangerous,” he said. “What this project will do is show that by putting targeted voter registration into action, we can get this age group interested in who will be representing them in Washington.”

– For more information, call go to http://www.newvotersproject.org or call (917) 207-8599.