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Working the vote

Matt Davidson, 18, works as a network administrator for the Pat Buchanan campaign  

Young campaign staffers share views from political
war rooms


Although these three 18-year-olds differ in political affiliations, they share a common bond as first-time voters.

Polls from the 1996 election have shown that young people are among the least likely to vote. But for these three men -- Matt Davidson, Lenny Sapozhnikov and Dyer Ridley -- receiving a proof of registration card wasn't enough. They wanted to do more than vote in this year's presidential election.

"I am really looking forward to this year's election," Davidson said. "And as (Pat) Buchanan's network administrator, I will do what I can to help him win."

After graduating in May 1999 from Walker High School in Roseland, Virginia, Davidson was college bound. But after listening to the Reform Party presidential candidate Buchanan speak in Washington, Davidson decided that college could wait.

It's not too late to participate in the National Student Vote
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Student views on the 2000 presidential race

Davidson made his way to Atlanta, Georgia, where he spent two months as a volunteer for the Buchanan campaign collecting signatures so that Buchanan could get on the presidential ballot. "Spending that summer in Atlanta made me appreciate the weather back home in Virginia," Davidson said. "It was definitely hard work."

Lenny Sapozhnikov is a campaign volunteer for Green Party presidential nominee Ralph Nader because he said independent candidates offer voters hope  

His hard work paid off. The Buchanan campaign made him a full-time employee. The experience that Davidson gained in high school equipped him for his new job. "My high school would pay me to hook up computer networks after school," Davidson said. "My experience from that job is what enabled me to become the network administrator for the Buchanan campaign."

Davidson said he believes that young voters should look at what Buchanan stands for. "He is a combination between the union Democrat and the conservative Republican," he said. "He can offer guaranteed good jobs in America for young people when they get out of high school or graduate from college."

Like Davidson, Sapozhnikov, from Fair Lawn, New Jersey, wants young people to take a look at what third party candidates have to offer. "If you have a social conscience, look to third party candidates," he said.

But as a first time voter, Sapozhnikov's support is behind Green Party presidential nominee Ralph Nader. "Even though my parents will be voting for Al Gore, they support me in my decision to vote for Ralph Nader," he said.

Sapozhnikov, who is a first-year student at George Washington University in Washington, has lost respect for mainstream politics. " There are so many scandals that have taken place in mainstream politics, I think young people today look to independent political parties to bring a true message of hope," Sapozhnikov said.

Sapozhnikov joined the Nader campaign in August. As a volunteer, he talks to young voters and encourages them to take a look at what Nader proposes. "(Nader) is the only candidate that is against the death penalty, and young voters need to know that," he said. "Although he is 66, a large group of college students like his spirit of enthusiasm and his message of hope."

Dyer Ridley is a first-year college student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and is supporting Vice President Gore. Ridley said that young voters are attracted to Gore's stance on abortion and health care.

Gore supports a woman's right to choose and believes that American families should have more control over their medical decisions.

Dyer Ridley is an intern for Students for Gore and a first-year student at Vanderbilt University  

"Those are issues that students pay attention to," Ridley said. Ridley has enjoyed interacting with different political figures while working on the Gore campaign. "My desk is right next to Donna Brazile's office," Ridley said with enthusiasm.

Brazile is the political director and deputy campaign manager for Gore. She was a founder and the first executive director of the National Political Congress of Black Women.

Ridley believes that Gore has made an effort to speak with young voters. "Al Gore appeared on MTV. Bush has yet to do that," said Ridley, who is from Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Although these young men have different views on which candidate they would like to see lead this country in the 21st century, as first-time voters they share the same faith that one person can make a difference.

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