Grassroots group wants youth at polls

Rafael Benavides of Clovis registers to vote Thursday at the Curry County Courthouse. Helping Benavides and 10-month old daughter Nina is deputy clerk Stephanie Boydston. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor

A national grassroots group has infiltrated two area colleges in an effort to get young voters to the polls for the November presidential election.

The local organizer for the New Voters Project said she’d like to see at least 600 students at Clovis Community College and 900 at Eastern New Mexico University register.

“We are approaching 600 registrations now,” Ivy Stoner said. “The New Voters Project recognize that politicians are talking about Social Security, Medicare, prescription drugs. Those are all important issues, (but) they’re not relevant to 18 to 24 year olds.”

Stoner said that makes sense, because during the last presidential election only 36 percent of the youngest age group of voter participated compared with 70 percent of voters at least 60 years of age.

In New Mexico, only 24 percent of 177,000 potential young voters took part in the last general election, one of the poorest turnouts nationwide, Stoner said. This year, Stoner said she hopes to get 40 percent of 18 to 24 year olds from Eastern and CCC to the polls.

Shelly Flygare, campus life and student leadership coordinator at CCC, said Stoner and a group of students have set up booths on campus with voter registration cards.
“She’s been explaining to students how important the 18- to 24-year-old vote will be to this election, and the ones who have stopped long enough to actually listen to her, I think they are really getting interested in that,” Flygare said.

CCC student Vince Allison believes if more young voters get to the polls, politicians will be forced to speak about issues affecting young adults, like financial aid and finding a job out of college.

Allison, one of a group of CCC students aiding Stoner, said from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday there will be what he described as a registration “blitz” at the college, where about three registration booths will be strategically located on campus.

The last day to register to vote in Curry County is Oct. 5. Since June 7, the last day for the primaries, 855 new voters have registered to vote in Curry County. That doesn’t include roughly 250 registrations from CCC students not yet entered into the system, said deputy clerk Stephanie Boydston.
“General elections always get more people to register and vote,” she said.

Stoner said her work is not complete the last day of registration. She said she will be in town through the election and will spearhead efforts to get young voters to the polls by making phone calls to those who registered reminding them to vote.

There are 8,222 registered Democrats and 9,209 registered Republicans in Curry County.