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CNN Today

Chief Strategist for Rock the Vote Stresses Need for Increased Youth Involvement

Aired November 2, 2000 - 2:31 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 can make a huge difference at the ballot box. The problem is, so few of them go to the polls. But that could change this time around, all because of a campaign called Rock the Vote. You've probably heard of it.

CNN's Kyra Phillips joins us now. She's with kids who are taking part in the nation's first on-line mock election.

Hi.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Natalie.

We are going to talk about Rock the Vote. As a matter of fact, we have a guest coming up in a moment. But first I'm going to tell you about the largest voter education project that's going on right now and it's happening right here at CNN in our headquarters. I am going to have Rick show you and introduce you to our students over here.

Tens of -- actually hundred of thousands of students all across the country are participating in this mock election. Even though they're not old enough to vote, they are getting excited about the electoral process. Their parents are involved. They've been talking about the issues in their classrooms, their civic classes, their government classes, also at home. And it's an actual simulation of all aspects of the electoral process. And I am actually, I think I have learned more from these students than I have from any interviews thus far on the election.

But we are going to go to Los Angeles now. Allison Byrne Fields is going to join us from L.A. She is the chief strategist for Rock the Vote. Now, you will remember this is a nonprofit organization that focuses on getting out the message that young people should be voting in order, of course, to truly make a difference.

Allison, thanks for joining us.

ALLISON BYRNE FIELDS, ROCK THE VOTE: Thank you for having me.

PHILLIPS: Tell me, what do you think about this project that's going on here in Atlanta, the mock election? FIELDS: I think it's incredibly important and a wonderful project. One of the things that we are noticing in these last few days and, you know, the past few weeks, as far as the e-mail that is coming into our Web site, are questions from young people around the country about, you know, I didn't know that there were deadlines to register to vote. I didn't know the process for absentee ballots. I didn't know where to go vote. I don't know. All of these questions, they don't know very basic information and the bureaucratic obstacles, which are preventing them from participating in the political process are things that can be surmounted through projects like this vote itself.

PHILLIPS: So, why do you think it's so important that students like these get involved in process and understand the issues and really get excited about voting?

FIELDS: Well, I mean, we want young people to get involved in the political process as a whole and we see voting as being one of the actions that they can take. They also need to educate themselves. They also need to educate others. They need to be working on campaigns. They need to be thinking about running for office themselves. They need to be going to city council meetings and representing the interests of themselves and their peers.

The vote is the voice that is heard by elected officials. And if they want to be heard by elected officials, if they want to change the tendency for candidates to ignore the interests of young people, they are going to have to show up at the polls.

PHILLIPS: Allison, that's an interesting point, because after talking to the students, they said to me, they have a problem with these candidates because they don't feel that they're in touch of how they feel, and what they're talking about, that they never come to their high schools. They don't hang out with them.

You know, how can that change? I mean, a lot of students here are talking about diversity. We need somebody who can feel our pain is basically what they've said.

FIELDS: No, definitely, there was a program on MTV where they stated that 80 percent of Congress is over the age of 40, white and male, which is not representative of the country as a whole. But in order for real change to happen in these accomplishments, this idea of diversity amongst our representative government, young people are going to have to use their voices if they really truly want to see the change. They are going to be the people behind making that change happen. And I think that something is -- that there is a feeling that there is, that something is going to happen. That the rise of the third parties, the greater interest in campaign finance reform, I feel as if this is something that could be changing in the next decade or so.

PHILLIPS: And also the mock election going on here. This is definitely a good sign of things that are yet to come.

Allison Byrne Fields, chief strategist for Rock the Vote, thanks for being with us.

And we're going to go back to Natalie and Lou who are upstairs and we'll be checking back here in the next hour with more of how the voting is going.

ALLEN: All right, Kyra, thanks.

You can see the results of the mock election later today, just tune in to "COUNTDOWN TO THE ELECTION" with Wolf Blitzer at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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