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Democratic Chairman Howard Dean visits MU to mobilize youth vote

Saturday, September 6, 2008 | 7:36 p.m. CDT; updated 11:46 a.m. CDT, Sunday, September 7, 2008
Kelley Robinson, center, a staff member at the Campaign for Change, cheers with the crowd as Howard Dean arrives on the MU campus. Dean spoke to the Columbia community Saturday morning for a Get Out the Vote voter registration drive. The College Democrats and other volunteers recruited 659 new voter registrants on campus the previous day and came to the Saturday event to register more voters.

COLUMBIA — Just over 200 supporters and volunteers came out to hear Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean speak at Stankowski Field Saturday at MU. The event was a part of the Register For Change effort, a nationwide Democratic Party  initiative to increase voter registration and turnout for the upcoming presidential election in the fall.
Columbia’s supply of young and new voters was the primary target of the rally. The Register For Change bus has been hitting college campuses in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa this week hoping to engage the newest generation of citizens in a democratic process that has historically lacked a strong voice from the youth vote.
Dean, the former Vermont governor and presidential contender, talked about health care, the economy and Iraq before putting the weight of the election on the importance of young voter turnout.
“I’m not going to win this election ... Sen. Obama, Joe Biden will not win this election,” he said. “You are.”
Lana Minor, an MU sophomore, has had a first hand look at the potential of an untapped youth vote. As an Obama volunteer, she has been one of the slew of people trying to get her peers registered, and she feels that this time, the youth vote isn’t hype.
“Everyone talks about how important the youth vote is,” she said. “A lot more could have voted in 2004, but they didn’t have a candidate worth voting for.”
Following the speech, Lana helped hand out clipboards and voter registration forms to the 40 college students who came to hit the streets. MU, downtown Columbia and, in particular, the tailgates surrounding Faurot Field for the Missouri Tigers football game were targets for the young Democrats and Obama supporters.
A coalition of students from Stephens College, Columbia College and MU registered 659 college students Friday, a figure that exceeds their total registration count from the 2006 election cycle.
MU senior Nate Kennedy, chair of the Young Democrats of Missouri College Federation, thinks young voter turnout in November will eclipse the record levels of participation in the February primary. He said his organization won’t allow a letup.
“Young voters are motivated by the issues, and they have energy,” Kennedy said. “That’s what we need to win an election.”
Sen. Chuck Graham came out for Dean too, but also the chance to get a first hand look at what he sees as an underestimated voting bloc.
“(Young voters) don’t poll. They’re not bound by the cultural wars our generation is,” Graham said. “Almost everyone who was here today won’t come up on anyone’s political radar.”
Graham expects young Democrats to be more of a presence in local elections too.
“I haven’t seen enthusiasm (from young people) like this since 1996 and the Clinton reelection,” he said. “College democrats will play a big roll over the next few months.”
Of the 200 present, many weren’t college students, nor were they new to the political process. When asked if he was surprised by the youth turnout for the event, Hank Ottinger, a retired English professor, just shook his head.
“I’m surprised at how lousy it is,” he said. “The youth vote can be the tail that wags the dog, but they’re historically unreliable and apathetic.”
One distraught college student mirrored Ottinger’s frustration. Tyler Sangermano, a junior at MU, arrived early to see Dean and support the Obama campaign. Unfortunately, her roommates didn’t arrive at all.
“My roomies said they’d come,” Sangermano said. “But none of them want to get out of bed, half of them just went back to sleep.”

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