Reality show contestants encourage students to vote

Lauren Eckert

As the 2008 Presidential campaign approaches election day, encouragement to get young voters to the polls is in full swing. The Campus Activities Board at Washburn University sponsored Rock the Vote Wednesday, Sept. 9, in the Washburn Room of Memorial Union. The event was open to the public and attracted a crowd of roughly 60 students and community members.

Wednesday’s event featured two cast members from MTV’s reality series “Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Gauntlet,” which aired in 2003. Alton Williams II and Veronica Portillo lectured at the event about the importance of students’ votes and examined some of the key issues that will directly affect all college students, now and in the future.

“It’s not just a right to vote, it’s your duty as a citizen,” said Portillo, while emphasizing that every eligible citizen should head to the polls on Election day.

Williams and Portillo shared that, of the 88 percent of college students that are registered to vote, only 47 percent actually make it to the polls. In 2008 alone, there are approximately 4 million 18-year-olds who will be eligible to vote. This means that young voters, as a generation, have a huge voice in these elections.

“Politicians will have to start talking to us if we show that our numbers are higher than that of the older generations,” Portillo said.

The Real World cast members went on to encourage students to learn about the issues and to find the candidate that speaks to them on the issues that are important to them as students, such as the economy and job availability, the war, health care and the environment. Williams commented that these are all issues the younger generations will have to deal with in the near future, both directly and indirectly.

“Rock the Vote re-emphasized the importance of voting,” said Jenna Dean, Washburn senior. “I have always been a believer that every vote counts and they did a great job of reminding me to get to the polls.”

Dean also said she hadn’t thought much about the issues presented at the event that night, and that it helped to bring them to the forefront of her mind. Also, it made her think much more intently about which candidate would be the best fit for what she wanted for the future.