Voter turnout among young people has historically been low, with ever-lower numbers reported in recent years. A recent poll by Project Vote Smart attributed the bulk of this disinterest to cynicism about the media, a lack of accurate information and general cynicism about the political system. "I"m seeing a lot of cynicism in our age group," said Stephanie James, Indianapolis city project manager for Vote Smart"s Young Voters Program. "They"re very cynical of what"s going on. They"re saying, "I"m not going to vote because I"m apathetic; I"m not going to vote because I don"t think I can make a difference." We"re trying to change that." To that end, the Young Voters Program is distributing voter information, registration, candidate positions and polling place information in six cities, including Indianapolis. The outreach program includes operating a Voter"s Research Hotline, establishing a Web site with further information, distributing "Voter"s Self-Defense Manuals" through area libraries and the Web site and speaking engagements in such places as universities, Planned Parenthood and local libraries. According to James, every Marion County public library and university library is handing out the voter guides. The first phase of the program involved an extensive poll of the voting habits of 18- to 25-year-olds; after the election and outreach work is finished, a second poll will determine if the program had any effect, and if the program will expand to more cities in 2004. Indianapolis is one of six cities in this pilot program. Indianapolis was chosen for three reasons, James said: the concentration of colleges and universities in the area, the strength of Project Vote Smart"s existing contacts with media and local institutions and Indianapolis" central location in the Midwest. One of the project"s most important elements, James said, is its commitment to nonpartisanship. To that end, membership in the board of founders is limited to those who join along with a political and ideological opposite. This dynamic has led to such political odd couples as Barry Goldwater and George McGovern, and Newt Gingrich and Geraldine Ferraro. Furthermore, James said, the project accepts no money from sources which fund political campaigns, and relies on individual donations and support from charitable foundations. "Each staff member and intern signs a pledge to be nonpartisan," James said. "I think it really shows people they can trust them." More information on Project Vote Smart can be found at www.vote-smart.org; specific information about the Young Voters Program is at www.youngvoters.org. Stephanie James can be contacted at sjames@vote-smart.org. The Voter"s Research Hotline is 1-888-VOTE-SMART.

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