How to Turn Out Young Voters

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(Davis, CA)
Wednesday, February 6, 2008

It’s hard to top this for creativity.
Student: “Step right up!  Come and clean a dirty politician!  Go and vote – while you’re at it!”
Just after noon, on a bright, sunny Election Day, a group of U.C. Davis students in red “I Vote” t-shirts are pulling out all the stops.
Gorilla Suit: “Okay, so these are some dirty politicians over here.” (laughs)
That’s a guy -- in a gorilla suit.  He’s got two student body senators standing about 20 feet away, and he’s inviting students to throw sponges at them.  Wet, soapy sponges.
Gorilla Suit: “And the whole base idea behind this little game is that politics in general are dirty.  Because we elect people and then they don’t really listen to us after we elect them because we’re not the ones that have all the money.”
So … hit a politician, win a prize.
Gorilla Suit: “And then, when you’re done with this, if you haven’t already done so, you should totally go vote, cause today is the primaries and that’s what’s important.”
Student 1: “I can’t.  I’m not a citizen.  But I’d love to.”
Student 2: “I came to vote.”
Gorilla Suit: “Okay, so did you find out where your polling place is?”
Student 2: “No, but I’m gonna look later.
Gorilla Suit: “Okay, sweet.  There’s a map over there, and there’s some people manning it so you can find out.”
The wind-up … the pitch …

Gorilla Suit: “She’s got an arm!”

Gorilla Suit: “Wow, we’ve got a winner!”
Not far away is another somewhat … counterintuitive game: A political version of Whack-a-Mole.
Howe: “So they’re whacking politicians with our vote, so making sure they pay attention to us.” 
Margaret Howe organized this whole thing.  She’s with the California Student Public Interest Research Group, or CalPIRG, at U.C. Davis.  She says the point of all these shenanigans is to engage young people – and, of course, get them to vote.  And if estimates are any indication, something sure got young voters out – though maybe we should hold off on giving all the credit to the gorilla suit.