By Jenifer Furda and Carrie Simison
After the April 7 election, there was a lot of disappointment, anger and impassioned talk in the young professional community, mostly about the candidates we failed to elect because the global “we” failed to get out and vote.
In analyzing city numbers, Luce Research of Colorado Springs found that of people in our age range, 30 to 44, only 14.4 percent voted. Let us repeat that: Of the 70,863 registered voters in Colorado Springs between the ages of 30 and 44, only 14.4 percent voted, or an appalling 10,234 people.
Come on, Gen Xers and Millennials, we can do better! Because we didn’t vote, not only did fellow young professional Jariah Walker fall short of a Council at-large seat by a mere 3,000 votes (no matter how qualified or deserving Bill Murray is, that stung), but we are seeing younger elected officials like the smart, qualified, articulate Brandy Williams get voted out of office (a story for another day).
As the next generation to run our business, art and nonprofit communities, not to mention this city, we have to do better. The establishment keeps talking about how important it is to keep young professionals here, so we need to prove to them that this fight is worth fighting — that putting resources behind our quality of life and interests is beneficial to this community.
We have to step up and put in the work. That in mind, the two of us joined with Hannah Parsons, community advocate, and Lisa Tessarowicz, co-founder of Epicentral Coworking and president of CALM Foundation, to brainstorm. Now we start the #RockTheVoteCOS revolution! And, yes, it’s a throwback to MTV’s Rock The Vote campaign that began in 1990 and inspired us, as first-time voters, to learn about a candidate and add our voice — and vote — to the leadership that would shape the next four years of our lives.
Ballots have once again been mailed, this time for the mayoral runoff. What we’re asking our friends, family, co-workers, community — YOU — to do is simple:
1) Open the ballot.
2) Fill out your choice for mayor. If you don’t know much about Mary Lou Makepeace or John Suthers, start by visiting makepeace4mayor.com and suthersformayor.com or go to one of the MANY debates and forums.
3) If you can, drop that completed ballot off at Centennial Hall (200 S. Cascade Ave.) from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 14. There you’ll get your “#RockTheVoteCOS” sticker. Then join us at Nosh (121 S. Tejon St.) for a good, old-fashioned “Rock The Vote” party featuring great eats, music from Mango Fan Django and two-for-one beer from Bristol Brewing.
This isn’t about the party (though that is a pretty fun part), and this isn’t about the sticker (even though we miss standing in line for those on Election Day). This is about making sure our voice is heard. Loudly. And repeatedly. This is about showing up and shaping our city.
Even if you can’t make the #RockTheVoteCOS party May 14, tell your friends so they can come. Then put a 49-cent stamp on your ballot (maybe more if you’re asked to include a copy of your ID) and pop it back in your mailbox. If you don’t want to spring for the stamp, take it to your nearest ballot drop-off. There are 10 in the city. Don’t know where your nearest location is? Visit coloradosprings.gov/election to find out.
Finally, follow us on Facebook at “Rock The Vote COS” or on Twitter at @RockTheVoteCOS. Take a picture of yourself dropping off your ballot and post it there, or to your favorite social media spot, with #RockTheVoteCOS in the message. And encourage — no, demand that your friends and family do the same.
Our goal is to increase the number of young voters — ages 30 to 44 — in this election. We want to see at least 14,173 of 70,863 registered voters in our age group — just 20 percent of us — cast a vote. To add a little extra incentive, if voter turnout in this age group hits 20 percent in the runoff, CSBJ and the Independent will donate $1,000 to each of these three local nonprofits that make a daily difference in how our generation lives our lives: Colorado Springs Urban Intervention, the Trails and Open Space Coalition and COPPeR.
We can do this. We aren’t the slackers portrayed in late-’90s and early-’00s pop culture. So whether you’re a fan of Makepeace or a supporter of Suthers, make your voice and your vote count. We don’t care if you’re coming out for the music, the sticker, the beer, the food, the nonprofits, or just to see and be seen.
Just come out and help us #RockTheVoteCOS!
Jen Furda is associate publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal; Carrie Simison is associate publisher/COO of the Independent.