Psychedelic clothes may be hip on college campuses, but the political activism that went with them in the Sixties apparently is not. The sobering facts: Forty percent of Floridians between the ages of 18 and 24 registered to vote in the 1996 general election. Only half of those registered actually voted. Last year only fourteen percent of citizens in that age group voted.
Twenty-three-year-old photographer and videographer Michael Lansberg, who recently did some man-on-the-street interviews to find out why his peers weren't voting, reached a consensus. "The number-one response was it's a joke," he reports. "They figure it's corrupt, so why bother."
People for the American Way Foundation hopes to change young people's minds about voting, or at least make them aware they have a choice. The Florida chapter of the organization has launched a voter-registration and education campaign where Generation X-ers thrive: on the Web at Ivote2.com, and through public-service announcements on Miami-based music video channel The Box and other local and national staions. People for the American Way has also begun sponsoring voter-registration drives on campuses and at companies such as MTV Latin America, where the activists signed up 30 new voters on a recent afternoon.
"Our long-term goal is for them to realize that if everybody does it, they're going to have political power," says the director of the Florida foundation, Lisa Versaci, who dreamed up the campaign with a team of young creatives. "[We want] to start making the youth vote something the politicians are going to be paying attention to."
In a stark TV spot created for the campaign by Lansberg and his production company Nuvue, actor Balthazar Getty, with his Marlon Brando-like smirk and intense stare, goads viewers to vote. Images of Getty, who was featured in the film Natural Born Killers, and a cast of anonymous multiracial stylemongers populate the Website, which broaches subjects such as freedom of expression and religion, why to vote, when to vote, and how to vote, while promising to keep tabs on issues and candidates in the coming year. Even registered voters can learn something by visiting Ivote2.com, and gain a better understanding of how youngsters view today's world.
"Nobody's going to go to the courthouse or wherever you have to go to register," says Lansberg. "But if it's on the Internet, they'll do it.