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The New Voters Project’s John Ryan Naccarato, left, and Nick Ellsworth registered voters during a Godsmack concert at a Reno casino.
The New Voters Project’s John Ryan Naccarato, left, and Nick Ellsworth registered voters during a Godsmack concert at a Reno casino.

Getting out the young voter
“Are you guys registered?” said Nico Thornley, 18, to a group of students waiting for the campus shuttle service at one of the bus stops inside the University of Nevada, Reno. The answer was a chorus of, “Yes, we are.”

A freshman majoring in political science, Thornley is an intern at the New Voters Project, a non-partisan “youth voter mobilization campaign” that came to Reno in January this year. Throughout the day, Thornley and his fellow interns and volunteers at UNR go around the campus, registering people for the coming election. They are a part of a large group of young people who are canvassing all over Reno, Sparks, Carson City and Fallon to get 18- to 24-year-olds to vote in November.

“The first step is to register as many young people as we can,” said Jake Oster, 24, local canvassing director at the New Voters Project. “The second step is to make sure that we get them at the polls on Election Day.”

If turnout does climb among the young, it will be a sharp change. Young voters have a reputation as the most apathetic voting bloc in the populace. In a story on the Young Voters Project last week, the New York Times reported, “After dismal turnout by young voters in 2000, surveys this year show that interest in the election among the young is near the highest level it has reached at any time since 18- to 20-year-olds were given the vote in 1972. And state election officials say registration of new young voters is coming in at levels they have not seen in years.”

However, election year press reports often see increased-turnout trends (usually predicted by election officials) that fail to materialize in elections.

“We are aiming at young people because, in the past, young people have not been coming to the polls,” Oster said. “Studies have shown that young people don’t vote not because they don’t care, but because they have never been asked to vote.

“In the last election, some of the main topics were prescription drugs and Social Security. Politicians have not been talking to young people about issues that concern them. So the goal of the New Voters Project is to make politicians pay attention to us.”

The project, supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management and state public interest research groups, may be working: Studies of the project in six states, including Nevada, show increased registration. Whether that will translate into increased turnout won’t be known until the election. But while the Project has been operating in the state most of the year, points out that “less than 28 percent of those eligible” voted in the Nevada primary election, though there is no age breakdown.

“Professor Don Green and Professor Alan Gerber at Yale University found a consistent eight-point increase in voter turnout because of the Get Out the Vote canvassing,” said Oster about one of the strategies the project employs. “That comes from direct face-to-face interaction, which can be done in the streets, in front of the store, at a concert or at other events.”

Katie Selenski, 25, state director for the New Voters Project, agreed about the project’s positive impact.

“It’s very successful,” she said. “We’re finding that as we get closer to the election, more young people are paying attention. I think that’s because the candidates understand that young people can be a decisive factor in this close election.”

President Bush and Sen. Kerry have agreed to address 12 leading concerns of youth, answering questions that young voters can submit through the New Voters Project Web page ( The site will display the candidates’ replies to submitted questions.

Few people approached by the project are now refusing to register to vote—as few as one or two out of 10.

“Some people say they don’t care,” said Sally Welch, 20, another political-science junior, who is working as an intern for New Voters Project at the university. “But that is just what makes us want to work twice as hard. They are the people we are trying to reach—people who don’t want to be involved.”

What increased turnout among young voters—if it happens—will mean politically is unclear. Young voters tended to vote Democratic in the 1970s, Republican during the Reagan presidency and Democratic in the Clinton years.

Moreover, get-out-the vote drives can have unexpected results. In 1972, the presidential campaign of George McGovern poured huge resources into voter drives. But post-election studies indicated that McGovern’s supporters were so highly motivated that they were already registered, so his campaign in effect spent the autumn registering mostly Nixon supporters. In this year’s Iowa caucuses, candidate Howard Dean attracted many young voters who, however, ended up mostly supporting John Kerry.

Much depends on young voters realizing, on their own, the role they can play in the future of American politics.

“It’s really about young people talking to young people about what they care about and how they have a huge stake in the outcome of the elections,” said Selenski, summing up the basic concept of the New Voters Project. “[Our message is that] no matter where you lie in the political spectrum, no matter what your political opinions may be, you should vote.”

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Posted inDennis Myers Memorial


Photo By David Robert Nevada gets to see its first use of electronic voting machines in a general election.

Election results
These are the nearly complete results in Nevada and Washoe County as we went to press. The uncounted precincts are in single digits.

President/Vice President
Bush, George 50.06 percent

Kerry, John 47.46 percent

U.S. Senate
Reid, Harry 60.20 percent

Ziser, Richard 34.66 percent

U.S. House District 2
Cochran, Angie 27.30 percent

Gibbons, Jim 66.89 percent

State Senate, Washoe District 3
Crain, Cameron 27.52 percent

Raggio, Bill 67.64 percent

State Assembly, District 24
Holcomb, Brooks 47.98 percent

Love, David C. 45.79 percent

State Assembly, District 25
Gansert, Heidi Seevers 66.63 percent

Meyer, Dan 33.37 percent

State Assembly, District 26
Angle, Sharron 60.53 percent

Mozen, Paul 33.99 percent

State Assembly, District 27
Leslie, Sheila 62.80 percent

Martin, Larry 37.20 percent

State Assembly, District 30
Gustavson, Don 40.79 percent

Smith, Debbie 59.21 percent

State Assembly, District 31
Anderson, Bernie 59.24 percent

Thompson, Randi 40.76

State Assembly, District 32
Marvel, John 66.14 percent

Morrow, Joan 33.86 percent

State Assembly, District 35
Debraga, Marcia 41.05 percent

Goicoechea, Pete 55.45 percent

State Assembly, District 38
Grady, Tom 60.05 percent

James, Cathylee 36.18 percent

State Assembly, District 39
Green, Randy 35.50 percent

Hettrick, Lynn 61.56 percent

State Assembly, District 40
Knecht, Ron 46.78 percent

Parnell, Bonnie 50.73 percent

Supreme Court Justice Seat A
Hardesty, Jim 46.12 percent

Steel, Cynthia Dianne 33.53 percent

Supreme Court Justice Seat E
Mason, John E. 27.46 percent

Parraguirre, Ron 50.03 percent

None 16.79 percent

Supreme Court Justice Seat F
Douglas, Michael L. 47.27 percent

Hansen, Joel Frederick 25.84 percent

None 21.36 percent

State Board Of Education District 9
Cook, Dave 43.19 percent

Myers, Barbara 53.67 percent

University Board Of Regents, District 11
Hill, Doug 59.91 percent

Price, Bob 40.09 percent

State Question 1
Fund Schools First

Yes 55.81 percent

No 42.73 percent

State Question 2
Fund Schools At National Average

Yes 47.85 percent

No 50.75

State Question 3
Doctor-Sponsored Litigation Changes

Yes 58.71 percent

No 40.15

State Question 4
Lawyer–Sponsored Insurance Changes

Yes 33.96

No 63.83

State Question 5
Lawyer-Sponsored Litigation Changes

Yes 36.12 percent

No 61.06 percent

State Question 6
State Minimum Wage

Yes 67.58

No 31.24

State Question 7
Constitutional Language

Yes 52.53

No 44.16

State Question 8
Sales Tax Exemptions

Yes 37.77

No 62.06

School Board District A
Carne, Daniel D. 59.55 percent

Rojas-Ziech, Bella 40.45 percent

School Board District D
Pullman, Jonnie 66.54 percent

Tackett, Mike 33.46 percent

School Board District E
Mcomber, Russ 36.54 percent

Ruggiero, Jody 63.46 percent

School Board Trustee District G
Navarro, Theresa 45.30 percent

Price, Barbara 54.70 percent

County Commission District 1
Atcheson, Lynn 47.85 percent

Galloway, Jim 52.15 percent

County Commission District 4
Larkin, Bob 51.15 percent

Shaw, Jim 48.85 percent

Family Court Judge
Sferrazza, Pete 46.28 percent

Weller, Chuck 53.72 percent

Sparks City Council Ward 3
Lokken, Fred 42.30 percent

Martini, Geno 57.70 percent

Sparks City Council Ward 5
Schmitt, Ron 54.44 percent

Volk, Larma 45.56 percent

Reno City Council Ward 1
Dreher, Ron 34.60 percent

Gustin, Dan 65.40 percent

Reno City Council Ward 3
Dehne, Sam 27.81 percent

Sferrazza, Jessica 72.19 percent

Reno City Council Ward 5
Aiazzi, Dave 51.74 percent

Melton, Patty 48.26 percent

Reno City Council At Large
Clark, Bernie 39.56 percent

Hascheff, Pierre 60.44 percent

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...

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