BY MEAGAN MARSTON
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Democratic and Republican parties are making concerted efforts to involve young people in the 2008 general election campaign.
The value of engaging the youth demographic was illus-trated when the Maine Democratic Party’s Victory 2008 Co-ordinated Campaign said it hit the 1 million call mark during Wednesday’s statewide call night. In addition to registered voters, many under-18 volunteers worked to meet and exceed the goal in an effort titled “I can’t vote yet but my voice WILL be heard.”
More than 4,000 volunteers have participated in the series of call nights, talking to Mainers about their candidate preferences for the presidency, U.S. Senate, U.S. House and Maine Legislature. Many of the Maine Democratic Party’s 32 offices were active in Wednesday’s effort.
“There are about 1.3 million people in the entire state of Maine, so the fact that our staff and volunteers have made 1 million calls, and by mid-September, is nothing less than extraordinary, and is most likely a feat no campaign in Maine history has ever accomplished before,” said Rebecca Pollard, communications director for the Maine Democratic Party. “It’s clearly a change election, and Mainers all over the state are working night and day to help our candidates deliver that message.”
The interest in mobilizing the youth vote is shared by the Maine GOP, which has branch groups focused on involving young people in the political process. The Maine College Republicans have been awarded the title of “The Best State Federation” in two of the past three years and brought the largest state delegation to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., two years in a row. The group includes more than 5,000 students on 24 of Maine’s college campuses. The Maine Federation of Young Republicans allows individuals under 18 to join as associate members, so they may be actively engaged and educated in the voting process before reaching voting age.
The Maine GOP’s phone banks, like those of the Maine Democratic Party, have benefited significantly from the participation of young voters. In past elections, Maine College Republicans alone have been responsible for more than 250,000 voter identification calls throughout the course of a single campaign, according to the Maine GOP Web site.
“We have seen a tremendous response from young voters this year, as we have seen in other elections here in Maine,” said Jen Webber, communications director for the Maine Republican Party’s Victory 2008 Campaign. “These students and volunteers are excited to see John McCain bring about the real change we need for their future. They support the man who will strengthen our economy and make sure that the changes we make will create jobs instead of stifling them.”