Did Young Voters Show in Real Life?
By Jose Antonio Vargas
One of the big questions when polls close tonight is -- did young voters show up?
If the nonstop activity on social networking sites like Facebook and updates from youth-oriented groups such as Rock the Vote are any indication -- and they may not be -- pundits and pollsters could be in for a surprise. The kids are turning out on campus -- and they're using technology to make sure their friends and relatives do, too.
At Drexel University in Philadelphia, for example, some 500 votes were cast by 1 p.m., according to Rock the Vote (RTV). Four years ago, 425 voted. At Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., 2,069 votes were cast in 2004. RTV's tally was at 2,465 by 3 p.m. today.
In 2004, 625 students voted at Florida State University in Tallahassee. By 3 p.m. today, the count was at 721.
"Across the country we are seeing surges of young people hitting the polls," said RTV's Heather Smith. "However, there are still significant obstacles, including three- to four-hour lines, logistical challenges and attempts to make voting less accessible to students. Election protection advocates are working hard to make sure every person who registered to vote is allowed to vote."
Remember when a few years ago James Carville, the Democratic strategist, said, "Show me a candidate who depends on the youth vote and I'll show you a loser"? Or when longtime advisers to Sen. Hillary Clinton dismissed the young crowd that greeted Sen. Barack Obama at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Iowa, saying that Clinton's supporters "look like caucusgoers" while Obama's "look like Facebook"?
On Facebook's Election 2008 page, where users click on an "I Voted" button to share their voting experience with friends, 1,055,788 Facebookers had voted by 10:41 a.m. EST. Seven hours later, the number had grown to 3,403,296.
Sen. John McCain has about 626,000 supporters on Facebook, compared with Obama's 2.4 million. TechPresident, which has consistently tallied the candidates' popularity on other social networking sites, said that Obama added 400,000 new supporters on Facebook in the past two weeks -- a 20 percent increase.
The Facebook group Students for Barack Obama has been "the backbone"of the Democratic senator's youth strategy. Two Sundays ago, Obama thanked his Facebook supporters in a conference call. "I know I can count on you," he told them. Since he announced his candidacy in February 2007, the group has grown, with more than 700 chapters across the country.
About 3:40 p.m. Eastern time, the group sent an e-mail to Obama's list.
"If you aren't already out canvassing, Barack needs your help right now -- our data indicates that the results will be very close in many states," the e-mail read. "I can't emphasize enough how urgent this message is."
Posted at 6:55 PM ET on Nov 4, 2008
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