Registration a Priority for Political Aggies

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With just days left until registration for the 2004 election wraps up, political groups on the Texas A&M campus have increased their efforts to get youths to vote.

On Wednesday, both of the university's major student political groups set up tables at the Memorial Student Center, as they have done for the last few weeks, and registered students.

"Last election, voter turnout for young people was not very good," said Kelly McDonald of the Texas Aggie Democrats. "So we're really trying to get young people involved this year, and try and raise awareness about issues that are facing our generation."

"The work that we're trying to do to get more students registered is helping out immensely," added John Jackson of the A&M College Republicans group. "Just today, we've had 50, 60 kids come up here."

The democrats' table also saw a steady stream of students. Registering was a non-partian act, but both tables sold Kerry and Bush t-shirts and signed students up for their respective organizations.

These student political groups are trying to buck a trend that has been occurring ever since 18-year-olds were able to get the right to vote.

"The broader picture is that youth voter turnout has been declining rather steadily, with 1992 being the exception," said Dr. Paul Kellstedt, an associate professor in the A&M political science department. "Youth voter turnout is down approximately 15 percent from 1972, when 18-year-olds got the vote.

"Bill Clinton was unique in the sense that he made a deliberate effort to reach out to young voters," continued Kellstedt, who said the former president's efforts and the MTV "Rock the Vote" campaign brought large numbers of youths to the polls.

The steady decline hasn't deterred the young political civics, who have been working for months to register Aggies.

"The leaders that we are voting for today are going to make decisions that are going to affect us in the future," said Johnson.

"Your vote matters personally as much as it does to the country as a whole," added McDonald.

It's a message that both sides of the political spectrum can agree on.