DFL seeks to involve young voters in politics

Erin Ghere

Kevin Nicholson wasn’t paying much attention when President Clinton was voted into office in 1992. He was on the football field when the 1996 elections rolled around. But three years later, Nicholson is knee-deep in politics as the College Democrats of America chairman.
The University junior will take a year off from his political science studies to serve in the position, which he was elected to in July.
Minnesota DFL officials want to involve young voters like Nicholson and have reformed their party to cater to younger people in the aftermath of the 1998 gubernatorial upset. Jesse Ventura campaigned to get young voters to the polls and was the dominant choice of 18- to 24-year-old voters.
Since the 1996 election, disenchanted voters have been the big story, said Karen Louise Boothe, DFL communications director and a former political reporter.
Boothe said young voters are usually fiscally conservative but socially liberal.
To appeal to young voters, both political parties have inched toward the middle for the past few years, she added.
“Now the Minnesota DFL is establishing real change,” Boothe said.
DFL officials moved the Minnesota DFL presidential caucus in March from Tuesday night to Saturday night.
“It makes (the caucus) more reasonable for the lives we’re leading in 1999,” Boothe said.
In addition, the party is beginning the “D2K” program, a movement to “go out and invigorate the disenchanted voter,” Boothe said.
The program will attempt to do what Ventura did last year: get young voters to the polls.
“I’m not sure (Ventura) resonated on the issues, but I think what resonated with the young voters was his energy,” Boothe said.
The DFL will also continue to support the network of college democrats throughout the state.
Amber Wobschall, former chairwoman of the Minnesota College Democrats, said several hundred college democrats are in 20 campus chapters around the state. Wobschall is a student at Gustavus Adolphus College.
The DFL party’s reforms are an attempt to draw “new voters, high-school voters, college kids and young professionals,” said Mary McEvoy, a University educational psychology professor and Minnesota DFL associate chairwoman.
Brianna Halverson, co-chairwoman of the University’s College Democrats, said the reforms will be effective.
But others disagree.
Tony Sutton, executive director of the Minnesota Republican party, said the DFL has made a mistake, as young people won’t want to think about politics on a Saturday night.
But Wobschall said that by moving the DFL convention to Saturday, the party is “paying attention to us.”
McEvoy said the DFL’s immediate goals are to get more people to state caucuses and allow them more input on the party’s platform; to support more young people as candidates and welcome them into the political process; and to get more youth involved in the DFL party as volunteers and committee members.
“We need an infusion of youth because it’s the future of the party,” McEvoy said.
And it is a voice the party wants to hear, she added.

Erin Ghere covers faculty and state government and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.