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Declare Yourself and Vote!
By Rachel Laskow

Actress Drew Barrymore helps launch the "Declare Yourself" campaign to get young people into the voting booth, at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (© Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Wide World)
November 14—Entertainment, education, and the Internet are part of television producer Norman Lear's new campaign to bring young people to the voting booth. The campaign, called "Declare Yourself," hopes to register 1 to 2 million new voters ages 18 to 29 for Election 2004.

Lear, who created the sitcom All in the Family, and actress Drew Barrymore announced the project yesterday at George Washington University.

"If you get a youngster to vote at 18, the chances are much greater that that individual will be a lifetime voter," said the 81-year-old Lear. "So there will be every effort to make turning 18 a rite of passage."

A live, nationally televised "Get Out the Vote" concert next fall will be held to inspire young people to vote. The vote campaign will also conduct an 18-city college campus tour with an original copy of the Declaration of Independence. "Declare Yourself" is the end of Lear's three-year traveling tribute to the Declaration of Independence. In 2000, Lear and his wife bought a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence for $8.14 million, and brought it to 50 cities to encourage people to vote.

"Getting young people to vote is a sizable challenge," Lear said. "But we're going to move the mountain one rock at a time."

From September 15 until the presidential election, "Declare Yourself" will have a 50-day "get out the vote" blitz to encourage young people to cast their votes.

The campaign also created Let's Get Voting!, a short film about voting. The film is narrated by actors Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, and is for high school seniors. Actors Cameron Diaz, Ed Norton, Michael Douglas, and Kevin Spacey will also be a part of "Declare Yourself."

"Declare Yourself" started after a national survey found that 18 is an important age to register voters. The survey also discovered that many young voters do not vote because they feel like they do not know the issues or the candidates. Lear created the campaign's Web site, www.declareyourself.com, to help young voters receive information they need. They can also obtain voter registration forms, request absentee ballots, and find their polling places.

Lear has donated more than $250,000 to Democrats since the 2000 election cycle, but "Declare Yourself" is nonpartisan, or independent of a political party. Lear has been a political activist for more than three decades.