‘Everything in my power’
SUMMIT COUNTY – Keystone resident Lyndsey Redding didn’t make it to the polls in 2000 when then-Governor George W. Bush was running against Al Gore.Now, the 22-year-old’s political indifference has morphed into indignation over four years of what she calls “the wrong direction.””George Bush’s environmental policies really upset me,” Redding said from a cell phone on election eve, while she was out knocking on doors. “His education policies upset me, and I don’t support the war. I’m very motivated to get him out, and I’m doing everything in my power.”Redding is heading to the polls this election to cast her first presidential vote, and she’s determined to bring scores of her peers along with her. In her first-ever plunge into political organizing, Redding has spent hundreds of hours in recent months canvassing door-to-door, making phone calls, waving signs and posting flyers with the local Democrats.Her journey into politics was circuitous. Months ago, she logged onto the John Kerry campaign Web site and learned of a volunteer meeting in Greeley. Unaware of any local groups, she made the two-hour trek to find out how she could help the Massachusetts senator make it to the White House. The group pointed her in the direction of the Summit Democrats, where her organizing naiveté turned to know-how in no time.
Campaign lingo and candidate names slide off her tongue with ease, even though she’s short on sleep from balancing nine-hour campaign shifts with her work schedule.At first glance, she is a typical Summit County 20-something. She has lived in the county for a year, and waits tables at two local restaurants. She’s not the face you’d traditionally expect to see amidst the heads of mostly-gray hair at Summit County Democrats’ meetings.But she is part of the changing political face of Summit County – and the rest of the country – as politicians, political parties and nonprofits reach out with unprecedented zeal to young voters, the group that has been historically least likely to turn out to the polls.Organizers of all political stripes said mobilizing Summit County’s young adults has its challenges, given the nomadic habits and odd work hours of the labor force in a resort-based economy. Precinct-walkers find their target audiences change addresses and phone numbers frequently, adding to the challenge of chilly High Country canvassing.”The difficult part up here is that so many people come and go,” said Summit Republicans chairwoman Marty Ferris. “Finding enough people to stick with it is hard. Our main focus has been very widespread – not targeting a specific age group.”Summit County Democrats registered about 400 young voters during a nonpartisan voter registration drive, and now they’re banging on doors in places like Keystone employee housing and apartment complexes in Summit Cove to get out the vote.
“We’ve been identifying Kerry supporters. If any of them haven’t voted, we can call them and drive them to the polls if they need it. We have enough people who all feel the same way – we just need to focus on turnout,” Redding said.Two Silverthorne residents, Dan Gibbs and Johanna Raquet, started up the Young Democrats in May, luring recruits with political film-viewings and social events. The group is now 50-strong.Summit County’s large proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds caught the attention of the New Voters Project, a national, nonpartisan multimillion-dollar effort to drive young voters to the polls.The organization sent representatives to special events like Music on Main in Frisco and the Wine, Jazz and Art Festival in Keystone to register hundreds of young voters. During the past two weeks, they talked to about 500 young voters in Summit County, as they walked precincts carrying clipboards with lists of names of young people.”The best way to assure young voters show up at the polls is to have one-on-one, face-to-face conversations,” said New Voters Project state director Ben Prochazka. “Most 18- to 24-year-olds would normally fall into the ‘unlikely voter’ category. Not this year. This is the first all-out grassroots effort to get young people to the polls.”
Organizers passed out information on early voting, made sure young voters knew where their polling locations were, and referred them to Web sites to find out more about ballot issues and candidates. Overall in Colorado, the group registered 71,340 young voters – one in five – and 340,000 nationally.”We’re making an impact here,” said 24-year-old Keystone resident Lauren Rainen, who pounded the pavement in Silverthorne last week with the New Voters Project. “I just think it’s really important that we get out and make the effort so our segment of the population is represented.”U.S. Rep. Mark Udall (D-Eldorado Springs), who represents Summit County, has done his part to turn out Colorado’s young voters. The congressman criss-crossed the state to speak to college students in Boulder, Fort Collins, Greeley and Durango urging them to support John Kerry and Amendment 37.”They could really make the difference here in election outcomes,” Udall said. “And their lives reach farther into the future, so they may have a bigger stake.”Julie Sutor can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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