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Rally urges students to vote

Secretary of State Bill Bradbury addressed student apathy toward voting at the 2002 Election Cycle Kick-Off on campus on Wednesday, Nov. 7. Voting rates among young people have been in decline for the last 20 years, but Bradbury wants to see a reverse in the trend.

“We need people like you – no, let me say that a little bit differently. We desperately need people like you,” he said. “Because the scary reality is that most of your peers and classmates, friends and siblings are not voting.”

Bradbury said 30 percent of votes in America could have come from 18- to 34-year-olds, but only six percent of votes actually cast in 1998 were from that age group.

Bradbury said the reason for a smaller voting turnout among young people is because young people don’t feel their votes will make a difference.

“They feel that the issues under discussion are not relevant to their lives,” Bradbury said. “And they don’t think their votes count.”

In reality, many issues young people can vote on affect them directly, such as how to spend state funding.

“State funding for higher education fell by 18 percent between 1991 and 1997,” Bradbury said.

This decision to reduce funding for education has drastically raised tuition.

“As a result, in-state tuition for the University of Oregon rose by 80 percent.” He continued, “Twenty years ago, 70 percent of the financial aid provided to college students by the federal government was grants and scholarships and only 30 percent was loans. Today, only 30 percent is grants and 70 percent is loans.”

But students have the power to redirect state funding back to higher education.

“You have the power to increase funding for scholarships, to increase funding for education, to make sure that social security and Medicare aren’t the only issues being discussed on the campaign trail.”

The power young people have in their vote comes from their sheer numbers.

“There are over three million 18-year-olds in the United States. If three million 18-year-olds actually voted, it would get pretty tough for elected officials to ignore their issues.”

Bradbury isn’t alone in wanting to see more young people vote. The Oregon Youth Vote Coalition, also represented at the event, has a specific strategy to motivate youth to register.

In the near future, the coalition will be holding educational forums and candidate debates on campuses across Oregon. A goal of the coalition is to break last year’s 27,296 Oregon youth registration and turnout number.

The Oregon Youth Vote Coalition is a member of Youth Vote Coalition, the largest non-partisan coalition dedicated to engaging youth between the ages of 18 to 30 in the political process.

Other organizations represented at the election kick-off were the Oregon Student Association and Associated Students of Portland State University.