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Gioia throws party to register young voters

City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) came up with one answer last Thursday: He threw a party.

Gioia and the Queens Young Democrats hosted a voter registration party at the trendy TEN63...

By Matthew Monks

How do you get traditionally apathetic young people to vote?

City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) came up with one answer last Thursday: He threw a party.

Gioia and the Queens Young Democrats hosted a voter registration party at the trendy TEN63 cafe in Long Island City.

The event, which drew 40 to 50 people, served a dual purpose. It publicized Gioia’s proposed bill to give high school graduates a voter registration card when they get their diplomas and helped the councilman mobilize city youths for the 2004 election.    

Before giving a speech on the importance of voting, Gioia worked the room, a cup of red wine in hand. He sat with a group of college and high school students discussing the power of getting involved, and talked baseball with a local Mets fan.

Gioia’s bill has been referred to the Council’s education committee, which his aides said should set a public hearing soon. Inspired by President Clinton’s law that gave people a voter registration card with their driver’s license, Gioia’s bill would do the same when high school students graduate. It would be up to them to fill it out and send it in, Gioia said. The bill would just make the process easier and hopefully less confusing, he said.

“What I’m really trying to do is establish this as a right of passage,” Gioia said. “Voting is really the cornerstone of our democracy.”

He thinks the bill has a good shot at passing. If it does, he said he plans to attend every high school graduation in his area to personally hand out the New York State Voter Registration Forms.

Two young people who attended the party said Gioia’s bill was a good idea.

Sandra Guerra, a senior at the High School of Economics and Finance in Manhattan, said she was intimidated at the prospect of registering to vote because she did not know how.

Most teenagers are apathetic, she said, and need encouragement to get involved. The bill would do just that, she said.

Tania Tavarez, a freshman at Kingsboro Community College, agreed. She registered last year, and said it is imperative that young people do the same, especially in an election year.

Just 18 million 18- to 30-year-olds voted in the last presidential election, said Trina Dasgupta, a New York City director for Rock the Vote, a non-profit program affiliated with MTV that encourages young people to vote. In the 2000 presidential election that was ultimately decided by roughly 500 votes, young people would have certainly made a difference if more of them turned out to vote in the Bush-Gore race, she said.

This yearRock the Vote wants to get 20 million young people to vote, she said. Gioia’s efforts can only help them reach this goal, she said.

“I think it’s great. It’s all about making the process as easy as possible,” Dasgupta said. “It’s really about making politics less complicated.”

Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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