Isaiah Nelson, senior and Youth Outreach Coordinator for Mayor Joe Riley, speaks on the phone at the campaign headquarters. One of Nelson's main concerns is getting young people to vote in the upcoming election. (Sarah Sheafer / GSO)

Always Another Vote

Isaiah Nelson, senior and Youth Outreach Coordinator for Mayor Joe Riley, speaks on the phone at the campaign headquarters. One of Nelson's main concerns is getting young people to vote in the upcoming election. (Sarah Sheafer / GSO)

Isaiah Nelson, senior and Youth Outreach Coordinator for Mayor Joe Riley, speaks on the phone at the campaign headquarters. One of Nelson's main concerns is getting young people to vote in the upcoming election. (Sarah Sheafer / GSO)

As the Nov. 8 municipal election approaches, Youth Outreach Coordinator Isaiah Nelson vamps up efforts in trying to get students to participate since those between the ages of 18 to 24 are least likely to vote according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Saying he was busy would be an understatement. From 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. he’s on the job.

Senior Isaiah Nelson’s lack of available time stems from his work with the Riley for Mayor campaign. Nelson, the Youth Outreach Coordinator for the campaign constantly has one thing on his mind: getting students involved in local politics.

Nelson said, “Local politics is where everything happens. Decisions that directly affect you are made at the local level. “

This past summer, Nelson was a White House Intern in the Office of Public Engagement where he worked for President Obama’s Youth Liaison on youth outreach. Nelson’s experience in Washington, D.C. has helped him with the Riley for Mayor campaign. He described his work at the White House as “eye-opening” and “an honor.”

Although he has shifted his work from a national level to a more local level, Nelson said his job and the campaign is still intense. A typical day for him involves waking up at 7 a.m. to work with the interns in the office who are in charge of outreach in different areas in and around Charleston. Throughout the day he’s working on voter registrations and volunteer drives with his academic classes scheduled in-between his work. He’s generally at the office until 6 p.m., but before he can take a seat and relax, he’s back on campus speaking with various students and groups. Once done with his work on campus, he heads back over to the office to make data entries.

At times, it may be hard to remember he’s also a student. He still has homework like every other individual at the College and he’s currently working on his Bachelor’s essay. Nelson said he can’t even remember the last time he went to bed before midnight. Generally, he doesn’t get to rest until 2 a.m.

Nelson said his work is never done with the campaign. He said, “It’s intense. It’s a lot of fun. A campaign is one of those things you can never do enough of. There’s always another vote you can get. But working on a campaign is a lot of fun.”

Nelson and the interns have already registered 400 individuals in the youth community over a time-span of just two weeks. Nelson said he sees this as a huge accomplishment and would like to see more students going to the polls in order to vote.

Although the deadline to register to vote has already passed for the upcoming election, people can still register to vote anytime for other elections in the future. According to Nelson, registering to vote is easy. He said, “It is very simple for people to register to vote. It takes about two minutes and they only have to fill out a simple form from the Voter Registration office. They provide full name, social security number, local address, birth date and phone number. When we do the registration drives, we take the form into the office for them, so it is as easy as it possibly could be.”

While voter registration is low in the United States compared to other countries, actual voter turnout is even lower. In order to make it easier for people to go to the polls, Nelson said Riley’s campaign office will offer a free ride to the polls if they arrange a ride by calling the office at 843-608-9401. In addition, the website scvotes.com provides information on where to vote, how to get there and shows registration information at scvotes.org/check_your_voter_registration.

According to the Pew Research Center, individuals between the age of 18 and 29 received higher voter turnout in 2008 than in 2004. While the gap between younger and older voter turnout remains quite large, the distance is narrowing.

The U.S. Census Bureau discovered that in 2008, voter registration in South Carolina for those between the age of 18 to 24 was 54.6 percent with voter turnout at 47.8 percent. These statistics are contrasted by the average voter registrations at 72.0 percent and voter turnout at 63.4 percent. In general, the older-aged demographic tends to vote more, especially the age group between 65 to 74 with registration at 84.4 percent and voter turnout at 76.1 percent.

In 2010, during a non-presidential race, registration and voter turnout for those in the age group between 18 to 24 in South Carolina was at 46.2 percent and 22.9 percent, respectively. The 22.9 percent figure seems strikingly low. Nelson said he hopes that this figure will increase with the efforts made by himself, the interns and young volunteers.

According to Nelson, the Riley for Mayor campaign has already seen over 350 young people signed up to volunteer. Nelson said the reason why so many young people are getting involved this year in elections is because they are being offered the opportunity. With Nelson and his team constantly looking to assist youth in registration and providing them with a chance to help out, many are jumping on the opportunity.

Nelson said he is glad to see students getting involved. “It is our responsibility to go to the polls. And when we don’t, it’s extremely disappointing to see apathy of young people,” he said. “A lot of us don’t realize these local elections have a huge impact on us, not just presidential elections. Mayor elections are just as important.”

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Sarah Sheafer is the editor-in-chief of CisternYard News. She is a senior, double majoring in political science and international studies with a focus in the Middle East.


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