The body-slamming promoters of professional wrestling and the mavens of hip-hop music are teaming up to bring their fans to what may be an unfamiliar place — the voting booth.
THE UNLIKELY partnership between World Wrestling Entertainment and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network — called “Smackdown Your Vote!” — wants to get 2 million more 18- to 30-year-olds to register and cast their votes in the 2004 presidential election than did in 2000.
“Wow. The WWE and hip hop together — there goes the neighborhood, huh?” quipped WWE chairman Vince McMahon at a news conference Monday. He was joined by Rev. Run, aka Joseph Simmons, of the hip-hop group Run-DMC and wrestling stars Bradshaw and Maven, among others.
Known more for promoting bone-jarring wrestling spectacles than for his political savvy, McMahon said the two groups are forming a “tag team championship combination to go out and find these new people, sign them up and get them to vote.”
The groups will register voters at hip-hop concerts and wrestling events around the country, hold rallies at colleges and high schools and create public service announcements to promote voter registration and voting.
“We’re going to work hard and inform young people why voting is important,” said Benjamin Chavis, CEO and president of the action network, an education advocacy group founded by music mogul Russell Simmons. “If young people understand that voting can change their living conditions, they will vote.”
Overall voting rates have dropped from 63 percent in 1960 to 50 percent in 2000, according to Curtis Gans, who studies voter turnout as director of the Committee for Study of the American Electorate. Turnout of young adults between 18 and 24 has dropped to about three in 10, Gans said.
The nonpartisan partnership also plans to unveil a report on issues important to young voters shortly before the New Hampshire presidential primary, tentatively set for Jan. 27.
The action network has already organized nearly a dozen concerts to promote voter registration in major cities this year. At its most recent hip-hop summit in Philadelphia, organizers registered more than 11,000 new voters.
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