TURNING OUT HIP HOP VOTERS.

I took a field trip yesterday to a really well-done piece of political theater, the only press conference I've been to that had a go-go band opener and involved a D.J. asking, "Where my single ladies at?" to a crowd a few hundred strong, turned out by celebrity and good old-fashioned D.C. machine politics.

All for a good cause, of course, as the Hip Hop Caucus launched its voter registration/get-out-the-vote drive, to be led by "street teams" in seventeen cities across the country. The best part of the program is that it targets 18 to 29 year-olds who are not enrolled in college, a constituency that doesn't receive a lot of attention -- or vote much (only one in 14 voted on Super Tuesday, for instance). Rapper T.I. turned out as chief spokesman. Interestingly, T.I. can't vote, as he's pled guilty to felony gun charges, giving the rapper, and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, the head of the Hip Hop Caucus, an opportunity to make a double point about the importance of allowing felons who have served their time to vote.

Unfortunately, I have my doubts about the potential efficacy of the Caucus' efforts; without information on funding and training and the number of field operatives, the concern is that this could turn into another "Vote or Die" campaign that's more about promoting artists and corporate sponsors than civic education. Worryingly, all of the co-sponsors are corporations, not voting rights groups. But at least there is some promise, and a media spectacle built around young celebrities like T.I. and Yung Berg endorsing voting in the media.

--Tim Fernholz

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