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Rock the Vote
by Rachel Laskow

Russell Simmons, co-chairman of the Rap the Vote Advisory Board, introduced the 2002 Rap The Vote, a voter regtistration, education and empowerment campaign created to engage the hip-hop generation in political activity.(Photo: Ed Bailey/AP Wide World)

November 2003—Democratic presidential candidates faced of in a 90-minute forum sponsored by CNN and Rock the Vote this month. The debate attempted to raise young voters' interest in the 2004 Election.

"Every young person that I talk to in this country is disappointed by politics, by Washington, and the sense that nothing that happens is real and doesn't affect your lives," candidate Senator John Kerry said. "I want your help in this race because I have lived the experience of being a young person who is trying to make a difference for our country."

Candidates mostly turned away from hot campaign politics such as Iraq and the economy. Instead, they stuck to the topics that influence young voters, such as the draft. A draft law requires people to serve their country during a war. Retired General Wesley Clark said he would not put the draft into effect because the armed forces "need people who want to be there."

The evening also had its lighter moments, such as when most of the candidates admitted they prefer PCs over Macintosh computers.

Rock the Vote

Tuesday night's debate was just one way Rock the Vote makes young voters more interested in politics. The non-profit organization uses actors, musicians, comedians, and athletes to make politics more exciting. It also urges young people to take advantage of their right to vote and hold events, such as voter registration drives.

Members of the recording industry kicked off Rock the Vote in 1990. It originally began in a response to attacks on freedom of speech and artistic expression. Now, Rock the Vote is dedicated to protecting freedom of expression. It also encourages young people to change the world.

Rock the Vote has changed a great deal since it started. Technology is one way that has helped Rock the Vote to develop. The organization uses technology to promote their message and engage young voters. In July, Rock the Vote launched online voter registration and has already had 75,000 people register through the site.

The recent CNN debate also used technology to make the event more youth-friendly. Questions were accepted through text messages and the Internet.

The year 2004 will be very important for Rock the Vote as it gears up for Election Day. From June until November 3, 2004, Rock the Vote will sponsor a bus tour. The bus will stop in 35 cities, as well as at the Democratic and Republican conventions. Each stop will feature a Rock the Vote event, such as concerts and voter registration.

Ben and Jerry's and Rock the Vote will also launch an ice cream flavor in January called Primary Berry Graham.

If you want to rock the vote and change the world, visit their Web site. www.rockthevote.com