October 3, 2010 in City

Spin Control: Enough already with oohs, aahs over young vote

By The Spokesman-Review

After listening to decades of hype about young voters, I have a request.

Don’t bug me about Rock the Vote, unless it’s something akin to “Rock Around the Clock” the Vote. You got a program for Swing the Vote or Jitterbug the Vote or even Charleston the Vote, I’ll listen. They’re the ones who vote.

Statistics for the Aug. 17 primary released last week by the secretary of state’s office suggest that, to paraphrase Sam Goldwyn (a guy young voters probably have never heard of), voters under 35 stayed away in droves.

Voters between ages 18 and 34 make up 24 percent of all the registrations in the state. They cast 10 percent of the ballots in the primary. Folks older than 55 make up about 40 percent of the state’s electorate; they cast 60 percent of the votes.

Every presidential election year, strategists – followed by national political pundits – fawn over the “youth vote.” It happened in 2008 as they opined, with very little evidence, that the chance to elect a charismatic, young, African-American candidate would drive young voters to the polls. Didn’t happen. The total number of 18- to 24-year-olds on the rolls in Washington state actually went down slightly between 2004 and 2008, and they made up a smaller chunk of the state’s electorate. About two-thirds of those who registered did vote. Good for them, but 90 percent of registered voters 55 and older did the same.

All this means that young people today are about like young people of previous years. No better and no worse, but certainly not special no matter what their teachers told them. It also suggests that candidates bragging about how many people follow them on Twitter may be tweeting up the wrong social networking tree – at least until 20-somethings start to disdain those 140-character messages because even their grandparents are on Twitter.

So let’s stop swooning when Lady Gaga makes a pitch for ending “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Let Katy Perry chase Elmo around Sesame Street, but don’t suggest she can chase young voters to the polls.

To 20-somethings out there who think this is sooo unfair, don’t bother to call to whine. Instead, prove me wrong: Register by tomorrow if you aren’t yet signed up, and then for criminy sakes pay attention and vote.

Taking the initiative

Big money continues to pour in to the initiative campaigns, both for and against, with about $40 million raised thus far. As suggested in earlier columns, much of it comes from large corporations and unions, undercutting the suggestion that initiative movements are of and by “the people.”

But the state Public Disclosure Commission created a new feature on its website this week that demonstrates how the initiatives are not really Washington state efforts, either. A map that divides the contributions by the state from which they came shows Washington donors are responsible for less than half, or about $17.6 million.

About the same amount came from the other Washington, in D.C., and about $5 million across the border in Virginia.

The biggest in-state/out-of-state disparity is for Initiative 1107, which seeks to repeal some of the temporary taxes approved in last spring’s legislative session. More than $14.4 million comes from out of state, mainly courtesy of the American Beverage Association, which represents the soda industry and wants the taxes repealed. About $24,000 has come from Washington donors who support the ballot measure, and about $328,000 has come from Washington donors trying to defeat it and keep the taxes in place.

The map can be found at www.pdc.wa.gov.

Submitted for your approval, as Rod Serling would say

A local version of Jon Stewart’s mock protest gathering, The Rally to Restore Sanity, is coming to Spokane’s Riverfront Park from 9 a.m. to noon on Oct. 30. Which begs two questions: Is there sanity to restore in Spokane, and wouldn’t it be more apropos to hold a local version of Stephen Colbert’s March to Keep Fear Alive?

Spin Control, a weekly column by political reporter Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items, reader comments and videos at www.spokesman.com/blogs/spincontrol.

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