A group of Lawrence High School students deserves applause for its effort to mobilize young voters to go to the polls in November.
The students, some of whom still won't be old enough to vote this year, are organizing a rally Sunday in South Park to "Promote the Vote." Although the organizers are members of the LHS Young Democrats, they claim their goal is not to promote Democratic candidates but simply to encourage young people to get registered to vote.
There has been considerable concern about participation of young voters in U.S. elections in recent years. The first step, of course, is registration, as illustrated by U.S. Census Bureau information about the 2004 presidential election. Seventy-nine percent of people 55 and older were registered to vote in that election, compared to only 58 percent of those 18 to 24 years old. Given the difference in registration rates, it's not surprising that voter turnout for the 18-24 group was only 47 percent, compared to 72 percent for people older than 55.
The good news is that young adults had the largest increases in both registration and voting rates from the 2000 presidential election to the 2004 vote. It's great that local teens are trying to help build on that encouraging trend.
As one of the local rally's organizers noted, "even the habit of voting is important," but it's vital that young people also form the habit of informing themselves about candidates before going to the polls. Young voters may not have as much experience as their older counterparts, but that doesn't mean they can't take advantage of the many sources that offer information about candidates, their qualification and their stands on key issues. A generation that is so tied into computer technology and Internet connections should have no trouble finding ample information on which to base an informed vote.
Experts contacted by the Journal-World said young people tend to skip voting because they are focused on themselves and don't see how the issues being discussed in the political arena affect their lives. The Census Bureau also notes that people in the 18-24 group may be less likely to get registered to vote because they are more transient.
The LHS Young Democrats aren't willing to accept those excuses. Voting is the bedrock of our democratic society, and no one can sell that message to young people better than a group of their peers. Keep up the good work.