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political theory | youth oregon elections 2004

Voter registration downtown

Observation: things aren't getting better
Last night about 6:00 PM I watched a handsome young black man dressed informally but nicely standing on a busy corner on the bus mall downtown. He had a clipboard and a pen. Attached to the clipboard was a stack of voter registration self-mailing cards. Kitty-corner was another fellow set up the same way. Good eye contact, friendly smile. "Are you a registered voter? Time to get registered to vote today?" No solicitation. Just helping folks get signed up to vote.

As I watched him I noticed he - and his partner across the street - was approaching young folks specifically.

"Ready to vote? Let's get you signed up today."

Ninety percent brushed him off - avoided eye contact, suddenly started dialing their cell phones, juggling baggage, looking into the distance. He was handsome and did better with young women, "Hey there" he'd call out and get their attention. They'd pause and gab a bit then he'd get into the pitch, "I know you need to do this - you got to register to vote." And she'd say, "what's that?" and "Yeah yeah okay I'll be back later you know that" and then she'd start some business with her shopping bags and trot off.

After ten minutes of this, to confound it all, a buddy came up to this fellow. They obviously knew each other well and "whatcha doing down here?" "You know I'm getting folks signed up for the vote - do you vote? I'll get you signed up-" pen in hand ready to go.

His pal, young, strong, clear-eyed, full of life, took half a step back and summed it up with "oh no man I don't do nothing like that."
Make them vote. 05.Jun.2004 11:11

Justice Evans

In order to get people signed up to vote, especially when they don't really care, one needs to make them care. If you stop them on their weekend rounds of distributing money between the stores, they will nearly always be too busy.

Somehow, paying attention and voting has to be made into the coolest thing in the world that anyone has an opportunity to do. How? We keep trying...

Where I live, I'm asked to sign petitions and register to vote at least twice daily, but its usually more. It seems the signer-uppers outnumber the signer-upper-ee's. What results is often a combative feeling.

You're strolling along, and you don't particularly find an interest in the world or politics or that its destroying itself because you're really pretty busy in your mind recalling the final episodes of Survior, Friends, and who was voted American Idol. When you're not busy there, you're considering whether you want a Hemi engine, or just a regular V-8. Or you're ticking off carbs on your mental carb-o-meter, and those calculations do not allow for political thought. Also, you might remember, when someone asks you if you vote, that you've seen ads on MTV about "rocking the vote," and then you slide over into thought about Spring Break and all that booze and sex you had. And the video-taping of it. Plus, you might sign up to vote, but your cellphone is always ringing.

On top of all of that, most those guys who ask you to vote are really pushy and kind of in your face...you just meant to go shopping. I mean, leave me alone.

So...is it legal to knock on doors to collect signatures? What about getting the state to put a stamp on the return envelope for mail-in-ballots. Sadly, that ALMOST defeated my vote returning. How about fining us if we DON'T vote?
I don't know. What I do know is that the grassroots will always be noble and always cause some change...BUT, it will forever be the grassroots.

There has got to be a better way than standing on corners, selling the idea to vote.