Web campaign aims to boost youth turnout for midterms

One of the website’s main organizers is Sara Haile-Mariam, a communications associate at Campus Progress, the youth wing of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, and former volunteer on President Obama’s 2008 campaign. She characterized the effort as nonpartisan and said the site is about boosting turnout among youth of all political persuasions.

“We want to give young people access to information to make decisions on their own,” Haile-Mariam said. “By and large young people tend to lean progressive, but that doesn’t translate into any sort of partisan allegiance.”

Haile-Mariam said the coalition has consistently worked together to boost youth turnout during elections but decided to create a public campaign for the first time ahead of this fall’s elections. She said the top issues among young voters are those common to all Americans: healthcare, energy consumption and jobs, citing a 20 percent unemployment rate among those between 18 and 26 years old.

“There’s a tendency to view the last election cycle in isolation from the two that preceded it, when the fact of the matter is young people have been turning out,” she said.

When asked whether she thought the Tea Party movement and the ongoing economic difficulties may prompt higher turnout in November, Haile-Mariam said the frustration evident among many Americans reaches across age and party lines.

“Since the last election cycle we’ve seen an incredibly partisan and gridlocked Congress. It’s frustrating to see that and still believe in the process,” she said. “The American people are frustrated because they feel powerless, but midterms put us in a position of power. We’re focused on emphasizing that point.”

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