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Young voter turnout surged by at least 2.2 million votes over 2004 levels this election, according to new data released by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
"Across the country, the excitement on college campuses this election cycle was palpable," said Alex Nelson, representative of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. "That enthusiasm spilled into the ballot box this year."
For the first time, young voter share of the electorate also surpassed that of voters over 65, with young people making up 18 percent of the electorate and those over 65 making up 16 percent. Several factors - from increased attention paid to young voters by candidates to the proliferation of technology in the lives of young voters to a rise in civic engagement among young people - contributed to this surge.
This year's youth turnout marks the third significant increase in turnout in as many election cycles. In 2004, turnout rates increased among young voters by 11 percent, nearly three times the rate of the general population. In 2006, youth turnout increased by two million votes, while general turnout increased only slightly.
Young voter outreach efforts employed an array of tactics to mobilize young voters to the polls. In Arizona, the Arizona Student Vote Coalition included Arizona PIRG Education Fund, Arizona Students' Association, student governments from the state universities and others combined old-fashioned pavement pounding with technology to reach the wired world of the young voter.
Students on campuses across the country stormed dorms, invaded classrooms and even staged guerilla theatre performances to urge young voters to the polls. Students also employed a cadre of tech tools - from Facebook to 'text out the vote' tables to urge their friends to the polls.
"The primary lesson of this election is that when you pay attention to young people, they will turn out on Election Day," concluded Nelson.
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