National Voter Issues Paper Issued by WWEŽ Smackdown Your Vote!
News conferences were also being held in Boston and San Francisco in an effort to release The 18-30 VIP -- formally titled: “The 18-To-30 Year Olds’ Voter Issues Paper: Questions Every Candidate Should Answer to Win 20 Million Votes in 2004” -- across America.
The 18-30 VIP is one of the tools that the organizations will use to reach their goal of getting 20 million18-to-30-year-olds to vote in the 2004 election, increasing from the nearly 18 million 18-to-30 year olds who voted in the 2000 election.
The 18-30 VIP asks candidates for elected office, including the Presidency, to address questions on the economy, education, Iraq, and leadership. These are all issues that 18-to-30-year-old voters have said are most important to them in the upcoming 2004 elections based on information gleaned from the top national polls, including those sponsored by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), Harris Interactive, Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, MTV’s Choose or Lose and the Pew Research Center.
The VIP encourages 18-to-30-year-olds to use the questions in the issues paper to engage the candidates in a dialogue, noting “You are a VIP (Very Important Player) in the political process, but only if you get in the game.” The VIP also challenges those that would run for public office in 2004: “Show the young voters of America that you care about their concerns and that you want their vote.”
Smackdown Your Vote! co-chair and WWE Superstar Bradshaw™ called The 18-30 VIP an important step in engaging voters 30 and under in the 2004 election. “We want 18-to-30-year-old voters to know that someone is going to give voice to their concerns and issues in the 2004 election,” said Bradshaw. “The 18-30 VIP clearly lays out some of the critical questions that 18-to-30-year-old voters want addressed by candidates for president, Congress, and state political office. And if the candidates want the votes of 20 million young voters, they are strongly encouraged to address these questions during the course of their campaigns.”
Veronica De La Garza, Executive Director of the Youth Vote Coalition, said: “Youth do care and youth will vote. They are planning to turnout and vote in huge numbers, but young voters are not hearing their concerns addressed by candidates. The purpose of The 18-30 VIP is to provide candidates and voters with a start towards a dialogue. Youth can ask candidates the questions in The 18-30 VIP and add their own to the mix. It’s a starting point, and we will update this document during the campaign to keep the dialogue between voters and candidates alive and current.”
In addition to Bradshaw and De La Garza, among those attending the news conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., were: WWE Superstars John Cena™, Chris Nowinski™ and Shaniqua™; Layzie Bone from the group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony; Kay Maxwell, President of the League of Women Voters; Ian Rowe, MTV’s Choose or Lose; and Linda McMahon, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc..
The universal support for The 18-30 VIP from MTV's Choose or Lose, WWE, HSAN, Youth Vote Coalition, Rock The Vote, the League of Women Voters, the New Voters Project, 18to35, and others signifies the start of what will be the most coordinated effort in the U.S. among youth voter organizations to get 18-to-30-year-olds engaged in their democracy.
The League of Women Voters is encouraging Leagues across the country to use questions from The 18-30 VIP in candidate debates. "It's time that candidates give young voters more than just lip service," stated Kay J. Maxwell, President, League of Women Voters of the United States. "Young people will care about candidates only when the candidates begin to pay attention to them. Candidates must address the issues that resonate with our nation's youngest voters," Maxwell concluded.
The Alliance for Community Media will encourage its public access station members to use the 18-30 VIP as the basis for organizing and sponsoring 18-30 VIP forums with the young adults in their communities. "Public access television is one place where youth can have their voices heard without spin or interference. We are thrilled to be part of this important partnership," said Bunnie Riedel, Executive Director.
The New Voters Project, which is using state-of-the-art professional campaign strategies to mobilize 18-to-24-year-old voters in Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Wisconsin; said it would be distributing the 18-30 VIP to public officials and young adults in those states "We have the issues -- candidate friendly, youth driven, rapper and wrestler approved,” said Ivan Frishberg, Outreach and Development Coordinator for the New Voters Project. “With 20 million young voters up for grabs, the candidates better get busy."
18to35 said it will hold three forums in 2004 – in Chapel Hill, N.C., Madison, Wis., and Seattle, Wash. -- that will include discussions on the questions posed by the 18-30 VIP. “The 18-30 VIP takes the traditional get-out-the-vote efforts an important step forward. We’re not just asking youth for their vote; we’re asking them to be active participants in the political process,” said Jonathan Zaff, President of 18to35. “18to35 will be holding at least three issues conferences in the next few months, each of which will include exploring policy solutions to the concerns identified in the 18-30 VIP.”
HSAN will be providing the 18-30 VIP to its Hip-Hop Team Vote members and to its Youth Councils after their Hip-Hop Summits across the country this year. HSAN President Dr. Benjamin Chavis says, "While many of our youth have been disconnected from the political process, they are also disconnected from each other when it comes to discussing politics. The 18-30 VIP is a great way for them to engage the candidates and to engage each other about solutions to the problems facing their generation."
Linda McMahon, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., indicated that WWE plans to distribute the 18-30 VIP through its national Road to WrestleMania XX tour that ends at WrestleMania® XX in New York City on March 14, and at other activities. WWE Superstars will continue to participate in voter registration rallies, and educational events and forums, such as hip-hop summits and 18-30 VIP Forums in local communities. “WWE will be very active in encouraging a dialogue and sharing of information between 18-to-30-year-olds and the candidates for President and other elected offices,” said McMahon. “Getting our younger voters re-engaged in their democracy is our top priority for the 2004 elections, and should be a priority of the political campaigns.”
The 18-30 VIP can be downloaded from smackdownyourvote.com, wwe.com, youthvote.org, lwv.org, www.iop.harvard.edu and 18to35.org.
Gary Davis, WWE Smackdown Your Vote!, 203-353-5066
Graham James, MTV, 212-846-8911
Jody Miller, Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, 212-431-5227
Lisa Webster, 18to35, 703-975-1457
Ivan Frishberg, New Voters Project 202-546-9707 / 202- 487-6064 (cell)
Veronica De La Garza, Youth Vote Coalition, (202) 783.4753/(202) 302-5598 (cell)
Lyndsey Farrington, League of Women Voters, 202-263-1332
For more information on our partners, please visit http://vote.wwe.com/partners.html
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