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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

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You are currently viewing all posts written by Lisa Kennelly. Lisa Kennelly is a graduate student in the Master of Communication in Digital Media (MCDM) program at the University of Washington. A former sportswriter at the Newark Star-Ledger turned social media strategist for a Seattle public relations agency, she has served as the reporter for a hyperlocal neighborhood news site and publishes a personal food and travel blog.

May 16, 2012 at 6:30 AM

Access and education are key to young voter engagement

How do you capture that elusive “youth vote”? In the first presidential election since Barack Obama’s campaign showed it was possible to effectively leverage young voter engagement, the question still remains of how to keep 18-29 year olds engaged in the political process.

(Graphic by Corey Murata/UW Election Eye)

SEATTLE — “Politics,” Alex Miller says, “is inherently uncool.”

As we sit in the urban loft headquarters of the Washington Bus, a youth-driven political advocacy organization, it sure seems like they’ve found something cool about the creaky old voting process. Maybe it’s the “Vote Bot” Robot or the foosball table.

But the Bus’s Communications Director is serious.

“It just can’t be cool,” he reiterates. “And that’s fine — it’s still super valuable. What you can do is find things that are cool and meaningful to young people, and you can figure out what’s political about them.”

The question that seems to arise every presidential election year — how do you get out the youth vote? — is once again in the local and national conversation in 2012. While the 2008 Presidential season saw a surge in youth participation as a result of the Obama campaign’s outreach and leverage of social media to reach younger voters, a recent poll from the Harvard Institute of Politics showed that only 49% of Americans age 18-29 will “definitely” vote in November. Only 22% of U.S. college students self-identify as politically active.

The majority of young voters are like Curtis Rusch, a freshman at the University of Washington. He registered to vote soon after his 18th birthday, eager for the opportunity to vote in the 2012 presidential election. But off-year elections and smaller races or initiatives are not on his radar, or that of his friends.

“I just feel like it doesn’t make that much of a difference,” he says. “Some of those issues seem really small to us since they’re not affecting us every day, so it doesn’t pique our interest as much.”

Alan Charnley, a 26-year-old from the 32nd district, sees that tension often in the students at Shoreline Community College that he approaches, clipboard in hand, to strike up conversation — and eventually ask them if they’re registered to vote.

The one-time summer camp counselor admits he’ll Facebook sneak-attack his former campers when they turn 18: “I’ll write, ‘Congratulations, Happy Birthday! Now go register to vote’.”

Here in Washington State, 18-24 year olds made up 12.64% of the population in 2010, but made up only 9% of total registered voters (see graphic).

So what is the trick to capturing that elusive youth vote?


Comments | More in State | Topics: "Washington Bus", Washington, Young voters

April 17, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Optimistic outlook keeps Roslyn going despite economic struggles

A view from inside The Brick Saloon, Washington's oldest continuously operating bar. (Photo by Lucas Anderson/UW Election Eye)

In a former coal mining town just over the mountains from Seattle, residents look to a new local government and an ambitious resort development as keys to an economic turnaround.

ROSLYN, Wash. — We eat lunch in front of a massive wood-burning stove in a bar that opened in 1889, with a fully functioning spittoon running beneath the bar and a giant moose head adorning the wall.

So when city council member and coffee shop owner Karen Flowers tells me, “We’re in a little bit of a time bubble here,” it’s easy to see what she means.

“Here” is Roslyn, a town of just under 900 residents 80 miles east of Seattle. The former coal mining hub is probably best known as the setting for the 1990s television program Northern Exposure. Homages to the cult show are still visible in storefronts on the tiny main drag, including the perfectly preserved set of the show’s KBHR radio station on Pennsylvania Avenue.


Comments | More in State | Topics: Cle Elum, Roslyn, Suncadia