Local Politics

Candidates Chase Youth Vote

Posted March 31, 2008 7:03 p.m. EDT
Updated March 31, 2008 9:06 p.m. EDT

— College-age voters present political candidates with a goldmine of potential votes, and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are going after them.

Clinton's daughter, Chelsea Clinton, was in the Triangle for the second time in three days Monday to court young voters at North Carolina State University, Peace College and the University of North Carolina. She also spoke Saturday during the state Young Democrats convention.

State Board of Election numbers show voters ages 18 to 24 are registering at a staggering rate.

Nearly 12,000 new Democrats registered in the first two months of 2008, compared with 4,100 in the same period four years ago. On the Republican side, almost 8,000 new voters have registered this year, compared with 3,400 in 2004.

"It's such an untapped constituent group," said David McLennan, a political science professor at Peace. "You have so many colleges in North Carolina. If they register to vote, it they get out to vote, they really could swing the election."

Yet, during the past two presidential elections, the participation of North Carolina's young voters ranked among the worst in the country.

In the 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, 31 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, which ranked 25th nationally.

Four years ago, when Bush ran against John Kerry, 43 percent voted, which ranked 27th nationally.

"Hopefully this year, college students will come out more and give Hillary the victory that she needs," N.C. State student Christopher Meredith said.

N.C. State student Luka Daric said Obama should get the credit for energizing most young voters.

"I am going to vote for Barack Obama when the time comes," Daric said.