Television network has led youth voter registration

Laurie Miller and Laurie Miller

Typically when people think about the television network MTV, what comes to mind are music videos, The Real World and spring break in Cancun, Mexico.

The thought of MTV being actively involved in politics may come as a surprise.

MTV’s campaign, “Choose or Lose: 20 Million Loud,” is comprised of organizations trying to encourage more than 20 million young adults, ages 18 to 30, to be a deciding factor in the 2004 presidential election.

Since its debut in 1996, “Choose or Lose” has been involved in now three primary elections, each time hoping to reach eligible voters who are not exercising their right.

Campaign efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“I certainly applaud anyone who tries to get people out to the polls, and I know that ‘Choose or Lose’ had a big impact when Clinton ran,” said Deborah Hazard, Deputy Director for the Wood County Board of Elections. How effective MTV’s campaign is at reaching people who fall into the targeted age of 18 to 30, however, is most important.

Greg Bates is a junior at Bowling Green State University who, until recently, had not registered to vote.

“It’s great that MTV has taken a stand by encouraging young people like myself to vote,” he said. “MTV is such a big part of many young adults’ everyday lives, and I think they could be influential in the political arena too.”

In addition to their news specials, which contain interviews with both John Kerry and George W. Bush, MTV has created an informational Web site as well.

By visiting potential voters can learn more about the candidates and their issues, read current news stories, provide comments of their own and even register to vote or request an absentee ballot.

The campaign also comes complete with a “Rock the Vote” tour bus, which is currently touring 50 places, including shopping malls, campuses and concerts.

The goal of the tour is to register one million new voters in hopes of getting a total of 20 million to the polls on Election Day.

“I actually saw the MTV tour bus this summer at a Dave Matthews concert in Cleveland, Ohio,” said Amanda Dehn, a politically-involved Ohio State University student. “They were playing music, talking with everyone walking by and trying to encourage young adults to register to vote. It was really cool to see so many young people interested in politics.”

Although MTV’s campaign has proven to be impressive, it raises some questions about America’s youth and their resistance to voting.

“I know that some people feel their vote does not make a difference,” Hazard said. “Hopefully after the 2000 election they realize it certainly does.”

This is a common attitude that many eligible voters possess.

In 2000, nearly 106 million Americans cast their votes. A number that is seemingly high, but according to the Bureau of Census, only accounts for roughly one half of the voting age population.

Statistically speaking, voter turnout has dropped significantly among Americans ages 18 to 44 since 1972. Less than 50 percent of eligible adults voted in the 1996 election, and as stated above the results were comparable in 2000.

“I guess when I think about the millions of people who vote, my one vote seems irrelevant, but my attitude is changing,” Bates said. “I recently registered to vote this November because I would like to see changes made.”

Young Americans are full of opinions about what is right or wrong, and these have specifically been seen and heard since America invaded Iraq. Getting those opinions into a voting booth is the trick. This is where MTV comes into play, trying to mobilize young people to get their voices heard.

“Certainly it would be nice if people were self-motivated, but after being in the business for 16 years, I am just glad something is causing them to register and vote,” Hazard said.

MTV is not the only organization trying to motivate the masses. Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell started a program called “Xpect More,” which attempts to get students to expect more from their leaders and communities.

Also, the World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., Youth Vote, Project Vote Smart and the League for Women Voters have created a program called “Smackdown Your Vote.” This campaign is similar to MTV’s in that it focuses on 18 to 30-year-olds and the need to increase voter turnout. These are just a few of the many organizations working toward the same cause.

MTV is a national organization that reaches households all across America, from Los Angeles to Bowling Green. The network feels that if they can convince even a handful of young adults to vote, they have contributed to our democratic society.

“Even if MTV doesn’t reach 20 million voters, the fact that they put themselves out there and took a political stand is an accomplishment in itself,” Bates said.