Liam Ahern’s mission to help students started with a sprint during an interview to become a Watson peer adviser at the end of his freshman year. Now a graduate student, he’s still sprinting.
ALUMNI PROFILE - Rocking the vote
It has long been conventional wisdom that young people don't care about politics very much, and they don't vote. Statistics from past elections support that theory. According to a Harvard University researcher, voter turnout in the 18-29 age group was only 35 percent in the 1996 election. However, that number was 50 percent in this month's election.
A Binghamton alumna is leading the campaign to get the youth out to the polls and stay involved in the political process. Alexandra Acker '00 is executive director of Young Democrats of America (YDA), a group that makes targeted use of online and face-to-face communication to reach an increasingly fragmented section of the electorate. In the days leading up to the election, YDA contacted more than 176,000 people, urging them to vote.
The group also used Facebook messaging to counterbalance erroneous text messages that said Democrats had to vote on Wednesday.
"We like to say that we target young people at home and at their hangouts," Acker said. "We go door-to-door, we find them at coffeehouses and music festivals. We're a transient demographic. We're hard to find."
According to CNN, youth voters chose Barack Obama by a two-to-one margin over John McCain; Acker says the outcome was more driven by the issues than the candidate's personalities.
"There was a dissatisfaction with the Bush administration, and the Republicans were never able to move past that," Acker said. "The economy was overwhelmingly the No. 1 issue for young voters. That group is focused on things like college affordability and the lack of jobs with sufficient benefits."
The political game was a big part of Acker's life as a student at Binghamton. She led the College Democrats chapter on campus before advancing to the group's presidency at the state level and vice presidency at the national level. Through her involvement with College Democrats, she met people across the state and country. That networking helped her land her first job in politics.
Even though the election is done, the work for YDA is not. Acker says her organization wants to keep the positive momentum going by lobbying for legislation important to young people. Also, she wants to keep bringing new voters into the fold, hoping they'll eventually become leaders, activists and candidates.
"We need to keep the lawmakers accountable," she said. "You can't just get them elected, then they never hear from you again. Young voters, like all voters, want to feel they're being heard."
Last Updated: 11/12/13