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Hundreds Kick Off Youth Vote '96

IOP Conference Trains Students to Fight National Political Apathy

By Amber L. Ramage

Hundreds of college students will converge on the Institute of Politics this weekend for the Youth Vote '96 conference to learn more about the candidates and issues that will dominate this year's election.

Youth Vote, a national organization, hopes to draw 400 students from some 30 states to kick off a national campaign to register young people for this November's elections.

Presidential adviser George Stephanopoulos, human rights activist Harry Wu and other national figures will brief conference attendees on the impact of the youth vote in deciding the 1992, 1994 and 1996 elections.

After two days of forums and speeches, conference attendees are scheduled to take off in buses to New Hampshire, site of the nation's first presidential primary on Tuesday.

In New Hampshire, the students hope to put into practice many of the techniques they will learn at the IOP--visiting high schools, colleges, malls and coffee houses to encourage young adults to vote, according to Youth Vote Co-founder Ivan Frishberg.

Conference organizers said they are enthusiastic despite the inclement weather.

Youth Vote Conference Chair Melissa G. Liazos '96 said she hopes the conference will teach students how to get their peers involved in the political process.

She also said the roster of the conference speakers should appeal to the diverse groups of participants.

"I think we've got a really good balance between parties and different interest groups like environmental groups and human rights groups," Liazos said.

Youth Vote is a Washington-based, non-partisan organization that encourages students across the nation to register to vote and helps them become more familiar with the candidates.

The organization's leaders said they are trying especially hard this year, since 1996 is the 25th anniversary of the 26th Amendment, which granted suffrage to citizens 18 to 21 years old.

Far from the stereotypical images of disinterested and apathetic young people that are often perpetuated in the media, the young people of today truly do have genuine interest in the political system, argue Youth Vote '96 supporters.

Youth Vote '96 co-founder Frishberg cited a recent survey of 800 young Americans nationwide in which 89 percent expressed a strong desire to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

In fact, the survey, conducted by the Global Strategy Group, has led Youth Vote to believe that voters under age 30 could be a major swing vote in the November elections.

Frishberg said he hopes to tap into this potential power by addressing issues that engage youth: the environment, education, crime and the federal budget.

Frishberg attributed the recent rollback on environmental regulations and cuts to students aid to Capitol Hill's focus on the interests of the "money power" rather than the interests of youth.

"We're taking our issues directly to the politicians," Frishberg said.

Young people are much more inclined to be independent voters, he said.

"I've definitely seen a lot of disillusioned young people," Liazos said. "But I think also it's not just that they're not interested but that they don't know how to get involved."

In fact, it would seem that youths have been doing just that in recent years.

As a result of the 1993 "motor voter" legislation and the popularity of the Internet, more youths than ever before are participating in the political system, Youth Vote officials said.

"Young people are interested in politics," Frishberg said. "They overwhelmingly believe that they care about the issues."

Various participants expressed optimism about the conference and the potential influence of young voters in the 1996 elections.

"I'm very excited to be here. It's very important for students to be involved with issues and have their voices heard," said Sadie Kay Rogers, a students at the University of Oregon.

Another conference participant said Youth Vote would help students be more vocal in standing up for what they want.

"We think it's important that young individuals should be here because ultimately we as youth face a lot of disillusionment because a lot of decisions are made for us and it's time we speak up," said Pearl Zertuche of Mary Mount College located in Tarrytown, New York.

Harvard's Laizos and her companions at the IOP have been preparing for the conference since November.

They even registered attendees on an Internet homepage established for Youth Vote and used the Internet to disseminate information about the Youth Vote program. The Under-graduate Council co-sponsored the conference.

The radio station Jammin' 94.5 will also support the conference by staging a live broadcast in the Square with the specific purpose of getting young people registered

Youth Vote is a Washington-based, non-partisan organization that encourages students across the nation to register to vote and helps them become more familiar with the candidates.

The organization's leaders said they are trying especially hard this year, since 1996 is the 25th anniversary of the 26th Amendment, which granted suffrage to citizens 18 to 21 years old.

Far from the stereotypical images of disinterested and apathetic young people that are often perpetuated in the media, the young people of today truly do have genuine interest in the political system, argue Youth Vote '96 supporters.

Youth Vote '96 co-founder Frishberg cited a recent survey of 800 young Americans nationwide in which 89 percent expressed a strong desire to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

In fact, the survey, conducted by the Global Strategy Group, has led Youth Vote to believe that voters under age 30 could be a major swing vote in the November elections.

Frishberg said he hopes to tap into this potential power by addressing issues that engage youth: the environment, education, crime and the federal budget.

Frishberg attributed the recent rollback on environmental regulations and cuts to students aid to Capitol Hill's focus on the interests of the "money power" rather than the interests of youth.

"We're taking our issues directly to the politicians," Frishberg said.

Young people are much more inclined to be independent voters, he said.

"I've definitely seen a lot of disillusioned young people," Liazos said. "But I think also it's not just that they're not interested but that they don't know how to get involved."

In fact, it would seem that youths have been doing just that in recent years.

As a result of the 1993 "motor voter" legislation and the popularity of the Internet, more youths than ever before are participating in the political system, Youth Vote officials said.

"Young people are interested in politics," Frishberg said. "They overwhelmingly believe that they care about the issues."

Various participants expressed optimism about the conference and the potential influence of young voters in the 1996 elections.

"I'm very excited to be here. It's very important for students to be involved with issues and have their voices heard," said Sadie Kay Rogers, a students at the University of Oregon.

Another conference participant said Youth Vote would help students be more vocal in standing up for what they want.

"We think it's important that young individuals should be here because ultimately we as youth face a lot of disillusionment because a lot of decisions are made for us and it's time we speak up," said Pearl Zertuche of Mary Mount College located in Tarrytown, New York.

Harvard's Laizos and her companions at the IOP have been preparing for the conference since November.

They even registered attendees on an Internet homepage established for Youth Vote and used the Internet to disseminate information about the Youth Vote program. The Under-graduate Council co-sponsored the conference.

The radio station Jammin' 94.5 will also support the conference by staging a live broadcast in the Square with the specific purpose of getting young people registered

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