Sharon Sullivanssullivan@gjfreepress.com

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September 27, 2012
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Raising the youth voice in Grand Junction

Twenty-year-old Benjamin Shipman will vote in his first U.S. presidential election Nov. 6, and he's working to ensure other youth also exercise their right to vote.As a volunteer for the New Voters Project, a nonpartisan effort to register young people to vote on Election Day, Shipman was signing up first-time voters Tuesday inside Colorado Mesa University Center.The campus voter registration drive began late August and will continue through Oct. 9, the deadline for registering to vote in the general election.Shipman approached two young men at a table in the snack bar area - one was registered, the other wasn't."Oh yes," responded Clayton Ethridge, 19, who had yet to register. "This is the perfect time to do it - I'm just sitting here."I'll finally get my say in things. So if anything goes wrong, I can complain about that. If you don't vote, you don't really have a right to complain."Across the nation student PIRGs (public interest research groups) have mobilized millions of young voters since PIRG launched the National Voters Project more than 25 years ago. The project does not endorse any candidate or party, or take stands on any legislation.Colorado PIRG is a statewide, student-directed, student-funded organization that works on issues like consumer protection, environmental protection, hunger and homelessness. College students who get involved with PIRG learn skills like planning events, running voter registration drives, public speaking, recruitment, team building, coalition building and planning/time management skills.Alec Sprague, 25, and Kramer McLuskie, 22, of the New Voters Project, are working long days, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., to register as many young people as possible before the deadline.Between classes, Shipman and fellow CMU student Richard Ofosuhene, 18, are helping Sprague and McLuskie by also registering voters.Shipman and Ofosuhene are among thousands of student volunteers nationwide who are working on 80 college campuses in 19 states to boost youth voter turnout in 2012.As of Tuesday, the group had registered about 250 people on the CMU campus."Our goal is 1,500," Sprague said. "We're sticking with that goal, but we'd be happy with 1,000."The goal of the project is to work to raise the voice of young people. By students registering and voting in large numbers, politicians will pay more attention to the issues we care about."In many instances, students have already registered but need to update information regarding their address. Students may either vote absentee in their hometown, or where they attend college, depending on certain criteria. A person must be a resident of the county 30 days prior to an election.Most students are receptive to taking a few minutes to fill out the forms for registration, Sprague said.Yet, "surprisingly, some say 'no thank-you,'" when asked if they want to register, Shipman said. "I don't know why. I'm doing it for them."Sprague said he finds students neither apathetic, nor overly excited."Young people do care about issues," Sprague said. "They want higher education to be talked about more. People care about the cost of tuition, jobs and the economy."One of the first actions of being an adult is having a say in the political system."


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The Post Independent Updated Sep 27, 2012 04:51PM Published Sep 27, 2012 04:49PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.