The New Voters Project Presidential Youth Debate

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Why I Vote

The Lighter Side of Election, Care of Candidate Zero

Click here to see if you've got the skills to be President - you know, the lightenin' quick arrow keys and the fearless ability to collect votes by eating stars in a maze while dodging voracious cartoon Democrats and Republicans. If you first collect a ticket, button, picket, or cup of coffee then you can win 50 votes by swaying each Democrat or Republican in your favor - AKA eating them Pac-Man-style. (Ms. Pac-Man-style for the ladies.) The game's wahka-wahka-wahka sound is worth it alone.

Nonpartisan Parody: CANDIDATE ZERO is a one-platform pol who knows how to bond with potential voters ("I've always wanted to try yoga"; "Tiramisu is never as good as you think it's going to be"). He's got his own bio ("I invented the after-hours party") and his own mockumentary clips from the mock campaign trail where he mockingly mocks about himself and our "beautiful land of freedom, where woodchucks can chuck and the deer can do...whatever it is that deer like to do." Added bonus: Real footage of a hopping monkey. It's a monkey. But it's hopping.

Our Pre-Moderating Panel and Process

With the help of over 30 of the largest and most pervasive marketing and media companies in the world, we reached and requested questions from more than 10 million young Americans. The campaigns themselves were of course allowed to reach out to their constituents, but at no time did we ever market through partisan partners or post to communities that weren't strictly nonpartisan. We didn't restrict questions to just a limited, random youth sampling because we wanted to engage as many young Americans in the Election process as possible, but we believe the effect was similar to a random sampling in that we reached the general population en masse - the millions of people who use America Online or Comcast services, for example, or the millions who happened to see us on nonpartisan sites such as StudentAdvantage.com or RockTheVote.com or About.com, and who chose to respond to our call for questions.

The questions poured in - over 5,100, with over 4,300 of those coming in the final four days alone. Our pre-moderating panel went into action - ten of us with a myriad of political leanings, working on- and off-site, with guidance from our lead moderator Farai Chideya and many youth poll results, including MTV/ CIRCLE Poll, National Youth Survey January 2004, Washington Post-ABC News Poll, and First Time Voters Survey, First-Time Voter Benchmark Survey. In our first round of checks and balances, we each starred questions based on the following criteria:

  1. Did it address issues cited as most important to young Americans in that aforementioned research?
  2. Had it been repeatedly answered by the candidates (get answers to those important but previously answered questions here), even if it hadn't received much air-time on the traditional debates?
  3. How many times had we received similar questions from submitters (when 3,800+ different young Americans tell you what's important to them, you listen)
  4. How was the question worded, considering one part coherence/clarity and 34 parts specificity (candidates - and we love them - tend to run away with open-ended questions, whereas we wanted specific answers that young Americans can base their votes on). PLEASE NOTE: We didn't edit questions for content, choosing instead to let young Americans speak for themselves, even if they used politically charged words such as "imperialism" or, perhaps, got slightly emotional in their question. The only minor edits that were done fixed problems with clarity or combined parts of two separate but related questions.
  5. STILL WITH US? All 300-or-so questions that had been starred by three or more pre-moderating panel members using that criteria then went on to Round Two, AKA the Exhaustive Research Phase. With the help of this here Internet, the NY Public Library's databases, and unlimited caffeine, we were able to narrow the questions down to the 50 that either hadn't ever been addressed or had been addressed the least by the candidates.

    Those 50 questions were sent to our esteemed moderating panel of youth organizations and leaders in the field of youth vote mobilization, who then used their experience and expertise to each nominate their organizations' choices of the top 25 youth questions for your consideration.

    The final decision was up to you. We posted the 25 that had received the most moderating-panel nominations and then let 18-35 year olds vote for their 10 most important questions that hadn't yet been fully answered by the candidates, and 13-17 years-old "Future Voters" chose their most important concern. With one question submitted by our lead moderator, Farai Chideya, we'll be securing 12 first-ever answers from the candidates - answers that young Americans need to vote November 2nd for the future they want.

    Our Moderating Panel

    Farai Chideya FARAI CHIDEYA, 35, was enlisted to contribute one of the 15 sets of equally weighted question nominations from our moderating panel because she knows the issues and their nuances more than well enough to know how to challenge all three participating candidates, and her professionalism and accreditation are unparalleled, especially as a young American. Farai moderated the third Democratic Presidential Debate last September, and has contributed political analysis and commentary for CNN, MTV, Fox, MSNBC, BET, CBS and ABC. She was named to Newsweek's "Century Club" of 100 people to watch, placed number seven in PoliticsOnline.com's 2003 worldwide survey of "25 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics," and received awards including a National Education Reporting Award, a Unity Award in Media, a GLAAD Award, and a MOBE IT Innovator award. [Read her complete bio.]

    New Voters Project NEW VOTERS PROJECT is the largest grassroots youth voter mobilization campaign in history. It will demonstrate that any modern political campaign can, with the right techniques and approach, win elections by bringing new young voters to the table. The project will combine non-partisan voter registration, list building, and grassroots Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) strategies in 6 selected states; CO, IA, OR, WI, NM, NV. These states have a population of 2 million 18-24 year olds who are eligible to vote for the 2004 election.

    STRONG BAT PRODUCTIONS founded the Presidential Youth Debates in 1996 when Anthony Tedesco picked up the phone and called President Clinton. It's a good story that he'll condense into 70 words/less and type in here. Until then: "Coming soon." If "soon" ain't soon enough, you can email him directly at tt@strongbat.com for the full scoop. With an important PS: The debate never would've happened this year without the enlightened and tireless work of Martha Sager. (Thank you, Martha Sager.)

    Earth Day NetworkEARTH DAY NETWORK (EDN) promotes environmental citizenship and year-round progressive action globally. EDN's mission is to build broad-based citizen support for sound, workable and effective environmental and sustainable development policies for all. Through its voter registration and mobilization program, Campaign for Communities, EDN is linking community-based quality of life issues such as asthma, safe drinking water and parks and recreation with environmental policy. For more information, visit www.earthday.net.

    Youth Vote CoalitionYOUTH VOTE COALITION is the largest national nonpartisan coalition working to increase the political involvement of 50 million Americans between the ages of 18-30 years old. Youth Vote Coalition consists of over 100 diverse organizations representing millions of young people. Our goals include: increasing civic participation, building responsive government and promoting public awareness about the value of participation in democracy through the election process.

    SmackdownYourVote.comSMACKDOWN YOUR VOTE!,, founded in July 2000, is a non-partisan approach to getting young people involved in the political process and registered to vote. Through Smackdown Your Vote!, WWE has collaborated with many non-profit, non-partisan organizations to engage 18-to-30-year-olds in the political process. The collaborative program's goal is to get 20 million 18-to 30-year-olds to the polls in 2004, an increase of two million over the election turnout in 2000. In addition to conducting voter registration at WWE live events, Smackdown Your Vote! will visit high schools and colleges across the country conducting voter registration rallies.

    18to35.org 18TO35 is the policy research arm of America's youth movement. "We are a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to engaging young adults in the political process by Getting Out the Voice."18to35 brings new voices and new ideas to national debates, provides opportunities to young Americans to express their opinions, and equips young Americans with the tools and resources to turn their concrete ideas into specific actions.

    Rock the VoteROCK THE VOTE is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting freedom of expression and empowering young people to change their world. Over the past decade, Rock the Vote has called on young people to recognize their role in creating significant political and social change. In addition to registering over three million new young voters, Rock the Vote's street teams involve their peers in civic participation across the country.

    Declare Yourself DECLARE YOURSELF is a national nonpartisan, nonprofit campaign to energize and empower a new movement of young voters to participate in the 2004 presidential election. Founded by producer Norman Lear, the Declare Yourself campaign includes a college spoken word show tour; a national high school voter education program; a comprehensive voter registration and election information Web site; and two national PSA campaigns. As of mid-September, 530,000 people have downloaded voter registration forms from www.DeclareYourself.com

    Slashdot.org SLASHDOT knows what issues are important to young Americans because more young Americans are on their open-post Web boards discussing those issues than anywhere else in the world. Yes, they're tech-focused, self-proclaimed Nerds - a community that most likely boasts the highest mean IQ of any online - but it's their politics-related discussions that hold seven of their Hall of Fame's 10-most-active-stories spots. PS: Slashdot was also nice enough to invent reader-generated interviews and reader-moderated discussions. It's what's enabled them to provide our only question nominations from an entire community.

    GSPM THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF POLITICAL MANAGEMENT (GSPM) of The George Washington University is the Nation's premiere school of practical politics. Located in the heart of Washington, DC, the GSPM offers a unique educational experience from a variety of adjunct faculty who are experts in the field, offering concentrations in Campaign Management; Lobbying and Government Relations; Issues Management and Advocacy; Fundraising; Polling and Strategic Research; Corporate and Trade Association Public Affairs; Politics and Public Policy; and Political Leadership.

    civicyouth.org CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) promotes research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans. Since 2001, CIRCLE has conducted, collected, and funded research on the civic and political participation of young Americans. CIRCLE is based in the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy and is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Carnegie Corporation of New York.

    Fuerza LatinaFUERZA LATINA is a youth initiative of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP). SVREP is the oldest Latino voter registration education organization in the US. Incorporated in Texas in 1974. WHAT DOES FUERZA MEAN-- It means FORCE, STRENGTH and MOVEMENT. Our MISSION is to educate and mobilize young Latinos to get involved in their community by taking civic action.

    Citizens ChangeCITIZEN CHANGE is a national, non-partisan and non-profit organization created to educate, motivate, and empower the more than 42 million Americans aged 18 to 30 that are eligible to vote on November 2nd - also known as the "forgotten ones." Founded by businessman, entertainer, actor, producer and designer Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Citizen Change has one mission: to make voting hot, sexy and relevant to a generation that hasn't reached full participation in the political process.

    Harvard Institute of Politics THE HARVARD INSTITUTE OF POLITICS seeks to unite students, particularly undergraduates, with academics, politicians, activists, and policymakers on a non-partisan basis and to stimulate and nurture their interest in public service and leadership. The Institute also strives to promote greater understanding and cooperation between the academic world and the world of politics and public affairs. The Institute today offers a wide-ranging program for students including internships, Forum events and speakers, visiting and resident fellows, study groups and conferences intended to provide opportunities for interaction with the men and women who shape politics and public policy.

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On behalf of our nation's youth, we thank the following partners for helping us spread the word: