Press Release - For Immediate Release
Contact: Mary Lee, MOVE Coalition Co-coordinator, (919) 933-MOVE Erik Ose, NC PDP Director, (919) 933-3455
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- This year may be our nation's last, best chance to rid the U.S. Senate of the corrosive influence of Jesse Helms, R-N.C. He is currently waging his toughest re-election battle yet, a heated re-match with his 1990 challenger Harvey Gantt. Helms only barely beat Gantt six years ago despite outspending him by two to one.
This time around, Helms faces not only a formidable challenger but grassroots opposition from citizens' groups and activists across North Carolina. The progressive community in North Carolina is better organized and united in their opposition to Helms than ever before.
One of the groups actively working to defeat Helms is targeting the age group that voted most heavily for Gantt six years ago - young voters. The North Carolina Participatory Democracy Project (NC PDP) is a grassroots, youth-led organization set up to re-connect N.C. citizens with the democratic process. Six years ago, NC PDP organizers were also involved with the anti-Helms struggle through their work with N.C. Senate Vote '90, a gay and lesbian-directed coalition of progressives from around the state working to elect Harvey Gantt.
NC PDP's primary focus this year is working across North Carolina to register and educate young voters aged 18-30 in time for the fall elections. During the past six years, registration drives organized by NC PDP on a volunteer, no-budget basis have already added nearly 20,000 young N.C. voters to the rolls.
"Few special efforts have been made by N.C. election boards to reach out to young voters," said Erik Ose, NC PDP Director. "When the opportunity to participate has been extended to young voters through our work in recent elections, they have voted in large numbers."
One of the most innovative ways NC PDP is signing up young voters is through a Rock The Vote-type project called Musicians Organized for Voter Education (MOVE). MOVE is a coalition of N.C. performers and musicians who oppose the threat to free speech Helms represents. MOVE members are committed to encouraging their audiences to register and vote in this fall's elections.
MOVE was originally founded in 1990 by the Chapel Hill-based band Dillon Fence, and grew to include over 100 N.C. bands, performers and musicians. Over 8,000 voters registered at MOVE events before the 1990 election. This year, the coalition has re-formed in response to the continuing threat Jesse Helms' re-election bid poses to artistic expression. N.C. bands involved with MOVE this year include the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Polvo, June, the Archers of Loaf, Superchunk, Dish, the Backsliders, and Pipe.
Through MOVE, NC PDP is reaching out to young voters in non-traditional ways, making voter education and registration accessible to them at concerts, festivals, record stores, and other convenient sites. Across the state, volunteers are distributing information about Helms' voting record on issues of particular concern to young voters (education, the environment, AIDS research funding, censorship, etc.), using language and materials that speak directly to them as young people.
"The work we're doing has incredible potential to mobilize a heavy youth vote in November for Harvey Gantt," said Mary Lee, MOVE Coalition Co-Coordinator. "Operating on a nearly non-existent budget, we've already registered more than 2,000 new voters in over 20 counties."
NC PDP volunteers are also organizing on N.C. college campuses to set up large-scale voter registration drives for the fall. Finally, NC PDP is waging a broader education campaign designed to show older North Carolinians that young people in their communities are overwhelmingly opposed to Jesse Helms.
If supporters would like to host an informal house party or cocktail fundraiser in their area to benefit NC PDP, please call (919) 933-MOVE. Donations can be sent c/o NC PDP/MOVE, 1507 E. Franklin Street Ste. 505, Chapel Hill NC, 27514.
"We've already accomplished a lot, but we can do so much more to make a difference in this race," said Erik Ose, NC PDP Director. "Every day we don't have to spend fundraising is another day we can register more pro-Gantt voters and educate more voters about Helms' dismal record."
More than any other age group, young people in North Carolina realize Helms represents the past, not the future for their state. "Our 400-strong volunteer base is young, energetic, and committed," said Dana Terebelski, NC PDP Volunteer Coordinator. "They're eager to continue helping the campaign against Helms."
At N.C. State University in 1990, students cast 81% of their votes for Harvey Gantt. At UNC-Chapel Hill, Gantt received 84% of all student votes. With the continued grassroots efforts of groups like NC PDP, young voters will play an important role in the coalition that unseats Jesse Helms this November and ends a national nightmare that has gone on far too long.