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My Fourth Newsletter
30 October 2000
Monday, 30 October 2000 The season is upon us. Halloween is tonight (assuming you read this tomorrow). The election is within a week.
According to the polls, more potential voters will be out on the streets for trick-or treating than during next week's general election. Now what if we just ignored them, took control and made up our own minds, and turned the tide of election turnout? We might all be in for a treat!
The individual effort of every one of us can make the difference. Every citizen we encourage to vote means another counterbalance added to what you want to see happen versus what we just complain about. Which is it to be?
For those of you new to this newsletter, I am the author of a new book, TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD, an in-your-face issue-oriented book for young Americans on civic and political activism. We need to get all of us involved and soon-to-be and new voters definitely have the voice, the power, the intelligence, the sense of justice, the passion and energy!
This newsletter and my website http://www.teenpowerpolitics.com, are intended to provide an update on current issues and events affecting our entire population as we work - and it is hard work - to reengage us all in a strong democracy. And right now, we are focused on the vote.
A major motivational focus of TEEN POWER POLITICS has been to directly confront youth with their own concerns. The premise: when they see how those in office directly affect their activities and opportunities, there will be no choice but to act. But the stark reality is that we are all affected by whatever group's concerns are out there. The effect may not be clear but if we do not work for others, then when it is OUR issue (although these are all OUR issues), how can we encourage others to be interested?
As adults, how can we presume to complain about what we deem our most pressing concern if we are not involved? As youth, we narrow our present and future options when we hang back or let our friends slough this off. As parents and educators, any concerns about reaching our children, about keeping them safe, about providing for them the greatest opportunity are not fully addressed unless we ourselves work hard with our legislators and our community to see our goals accomplished. And what about the example we set for our own children when we ourselves fail to participate!
We are at a turning point and the key to our success and forward movement must be in citizen involvement. The greatest expression of that involvement is through the vote and ensuring it is out in force and meaningful.
The sad news:
For the important l998 congressional elections, 12.5% of the 18-24 voting age population (VAP) between 18 & 29 turned out and voted.
And of "new voters/first time voters", only 8.2% of those l8 and l9 years of age voted.
In our last presidential election of l996, less than 26.2% of that 18-24 VAP voted.
And let's not forget our important state and local concerns.
"Adults" have not truly fared much better. Of a total voting age population in l998 (including new and young voters), only 36.1% voted. In l996, 49% voted. 49% of what purports to be citizens involved and spouting off about the "good of our country!"
This was the first time since l924 that voter turnout for presidential elections fell below 50% of our VAP and the second lowest since l824.
My stats are courtesy of Curtis Gans, the Director of Committee For the Study of the American Electorate (DC), the "primary source of information and analysis on citizen registration and voter participation". We should all think about his quote: " If one counts both its Presidential and mid-term elections, the United States is among the lowest participating democracies of any in the world."
Now, there are good signs:
The number of women - from local to federal - in representative seats is up.
The crime rate has dropped.
Our economy is purportedly good.
And more people are involved with service activities than ever.
One in five children live in poverty.
The number of low birth weight babies has risen.
Alcoholism is on the rise.
There is a decrease in children being read to by family members and a decline in 18-24 year olds that have completed high school.
More young people are going to jail and often serving unreasonable mandatory sentences for crimes that do not match the sentence.
See a new report released this past week by the Urban Institute at which says: " Since 1997, adult and child poverty rates fell, more single parents became employed, more families could afford food, more adults received health insurance coverage from their employers, and more children were living with two parents, according to new findings from the 1999 National Survey of America's Families (NSAF). At the same time, the income gap between black and white adults grew, as did the health insurance gap between low-income Hispanic and white adults."
Quality education, job training, day care, help for dependent families are the concerns of all of us for violence, poverty and crime - the issues of our candidates - do not happen in a vacuum. Nor does skateboarding.
The manner in which we demonstrate to our children that they can grow up in a real world with some societal strictures but with full and equal opportunity will define their and our future. We need to listen to, investigate and act upon all these issues or others will make our decisions in a way we do not wish. And it's so simple. Just vote.
From TEEN POWER POLITICS:
"People in other countries look at us in amazement as many have only recently gained a voice in their own survival and opportunity. When the South African blacks and 'coloured' had their first opportunity to vote in 1994, the lines for that first ballot were miles and many hours long. In their second election in 1999, 98% of South Africašs eligible voters voted. When people in Eastern Europe and Latin America first tasted the exhilaration and responsibility of an uncontrolled vote, masses converged at the polls. In countries that are not free, the leaders depend upon the common citizen, and certainly the kids, to be invisible so that no one can challenge their power. Our democracy allows for all of our expression in our action, in our vote. Fight invisibility."
"The death of democracy is not likely to be assassination by ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment. Robert Maynard Hutchins (l899l977)."
HERE IS A TOP EIGHT -- OR NINE -- LIST -- for every day left (but in no particular chronological order except the first!) -- ABOUT GETTING OUT THE VOTE BEFORE ELECTION DAY:
1. Halloween's not just for kids anymore, as more and more adults just won't give up this holiday. But then, elections are not just for adults as the issues of politics concern us all. If we concentrate on GOTV (Get Out The Vote) and make it non-partisan, here's what we can do for Halloween and make it part of the experience!
Along with the candy, erasers and shaving cream, why not pass out information - made at home creatively (stickers, flyers or bookmarks but please no spraypaint!) or flyers and on-line postcards available from the League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote or my website http://www.teenpowerpolitics.com, urging everyone to go out and vote and urge others to do the same. When the little ones come to your door or if you still want to deck yourself out in full costume, stroll your neighborhood and feel a part of the holiday, feel also a part of your country as you pass out GOTV information or doorknob hangers, urging parents, your friends and others to spend their NEXT Tuesday not in fear of ghosts and goblins but in true control of their country.
2. Several states still have open their application deadlines for an absentee ballot and several allow its filing up until November 6. See if you still have the opportunity at http://www.election.com/us/deadlines.htm. Those with still open application deadlines close by tomorrow, the 31st, so check yours and tell your friends and family now!
3. Precinct work, phone-bank, staff political offices whether for your local school district (I just received a call from mine as their important bond issue is up for vote) or the presidency. You don't have to be of voting age to volunteer. Perhaps you can give a ride to voters or baby-sit for the time it takes a parent to vote?
I precinct-walked last election, exercised my legs, investigated new neighborhoods, talked about new issues and met a lot of people. The experience is worth it and can directly result in that one or two votes that turn a tide. Check out the UCLA Bruin's article on their students' thoughts and activities. Some are getting credit as part of their course requirements!
4. Educate yourself and others on the issues of the candidates and the propositions. Use your email, website or phone. Perhaps create your own summary of a specific concern that you know would be helpful to your friends and suggest they do their own to help you when faced with that complex ballot.
5. Make your voice heard in whatever way you think you can:
A poster made at home, hung in a window or stuck in your front yard.
A small rally of friends or fellow students on your campus to GOTV.
A call to a talk show or a letter to an editor about the issues of the campaign and/or the issues of youth as they are affected by this election cycle.
Flyers to pass out on your college or high school campus.
You figure it out!
6. Check back in on the powerful members of the YouthVote 2000 coalition. which include MTV's Choose or Lose and Rock the Vote. They are in high gear and full of persuasive reasons for you to use in readying yourself and others to vote.
Check also into your candidate's websites for the last minute information for you and others to use. 7. Attend rallies and meetings and present your opinions on your concerns. As we all strive to make sense of the huge number of important decisions we must make, the more voices in discussion, the better.
8. Think hard everyone about the ramifications of everything you plan to vote for or against. Ensure that it is your right choice and not the result of a one-liner from the TV or the news designed to appeal to your emotions but not to your true needs. Check back again at Project Vote Smart and at YVote 2000 for articles and comparisons of how the major candidates stand on issues of concern to you.
9. On November 7th, Vote. Vote. Vote.
THE ELECTORAL VOTE
Okay, here's the stumbling block and this year it could actually be relevant. In fact, the reason that Dick Cheney had to reestablish his residency in Wyoming from Texas is because of Electoral College "favorite son" regulations requiring at least one member of a ticket to be from another state.
Check out my ChickClick article on the Electoral College (although there's one teeny tiny error when the article says the first presidents were chosen not by voters but by the Electoral college) as well as the formal Electoral College site and Montana's great explanation . Just remember this. For the electors to be nominated to vote on the presidential ticket, they need your vote to determine who they are. This is a close race. Vote... it makes all the difference.
NEW STUFF ABOUT TPP!
1. TPP's cover is on the front page of the Kid's News section of the Chicago Tribune with the following quote:
October 17, 2000 POLITICS--WHY CARE? " ...Wanna get all worked up about your rights? Read "Make Yourself Heard: Teen Power Politics" [ok, so they didn't read the title correctly!] and find out all the decisions that adults make affecting your life. They're deciding everything from how clean your air is to what you can read, write and say. But you can have a say -- and this book will help you find your voice. It gives great tips for getting active, such as taking part in campaigns (really!), creating get-out-and-vote posters, even snagging TV and radio time for your crusades. And it spotlights cool, creative teen activists around the country. It also explains the voting process, tells you why each vote matters and -- our favorite part -- helps you spot the baloney in political ads. Reading this book will make you feel powerful and smart -- and that's a promise."
2. You can also look at the ALA website at "Libraries and Elections". It's got a nice color printable format with ALA President Nancy Kranich's "Election Tip Sheet" from the August "American Library" with election resources (TPP is in that as well but there are others... some that I recommended to them!).
3. And my article on Teens is out in the November issue of "Book Links", published by the American Library Association.
4. For young voters, I also recommend two books: Michelle Mitchell's, NOT JUST ANOTHER PARTY ANIMAL and Meredith Bagby's WE'VE GOT ISSUES. Both are written by 20-somethings with great journalistic credits about their own generations.
PAST THE ELECTIONS
1. There are many ways we can be of service. Here's one of the simplest: "October is Breast Cancer awareness month. If you go to http://health.yahoo.com/ and click on the pink ribbon, Yahoo will donate $1.00 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. This will work from October 15 to November 15, so please pass it around.
2. Post election debates.
a. Steven Clift, whose Democracies Online Newswire as I have cited before has created a special e-mail discussion list a discussion of the lessons learned with the Internet and the U.S. 2000 election season. Those active with candidate, political party, news, or other politically related online efforts are encouraged to join. The discussion will last just a couple of weeks and not start until after the election. To reserve a spot, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
b. Expect something in post-election wrap-up from the powerful groups behind the YouthVote 2000 Coalition and check back in with them mid-November.
c. Expect my next newsletter to talk about some great essay contests for college students, more activism stories and information on what's beyond the election and a "What's Next" wrap-up.
If you have any ideas you would like me to talk about, email me soon! And let others know about the information contained here. Send it on to friends and associates and/or send me email addresses you would like me to add to my list. The more informed we are, the better community it will be for all of us.
Check out TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD and its companion website, http://www.teenpowerpolitics.com. TPP was written as a guide and a tool for activism. If ever that tool was needed, it is now. Thanks for taking the time to read this! If you received this twice, please let me know as I refine my list. VOTE!
Sara Jane Boyers
(c) 2000 Sara Jane Boyers