Your Power to Decide: A Panel Discussion on Young Voters and the 2012 Election brought three distinguished guests who are working on various initiatives to enable and empower the youth vote. The program provided information to young and first-time voters, not only about the basics of the electoral process and voter registration, but also about topics such as the impact of the media on voter opinion, policy issues that are critical for young voters, and how young voters can productively engage in the democratic process. The panelists discussed the power of the youth vote, the importance of youth mobilization, and how the current economic and political climate has impacted young voters’ perspectives and desire to engage in the electoral process. Jason Rzepka introduced MTV’s Fantasy Election online game which launched the previous day and is already garnering applause and attention from all sides of the political spectrum. The program was introduced by Fay Rosenfeld, Director of Programs, Operations and Development for Roosevelt House.



Jason Rzepka  MTV 'Power of 12'

Jason is vice president of public affairs at MTV, the #1 global youth brand. Jason marshals the network’s forces to engage and activate America’s youth on the biggest challenges facing their generation. He is responsible for the strategic direction of all of MTV’s “pro-social” campaigns, including the boundary-shattering, Peabody-winning “It’s Your (Sex) Life,” which has reached over 200 million young people on sexual health issues; Webby-winning “A Thin Line,” which has inspired over 1 million young people to draw their own line between digital use and digital abuse; and “Power of 12,” which is built to unleash the exponential power of young voters in the 2012 elections – and beyond.

Aaron Smith  Young Invincibles

Aaron is co-founder and Executive Director of Young Invincibles (YI), a research, advocacy and organizing group founded by a group of Georgetown law students in 2009 with the goal of expanding opportunity for young adults, aged 18-34. After college, Aaron interned in the office of Congressman Chris Van Hollen and then worked for Emmaus Services for the Aging, a non-profit working to keep seniors in their homes in DC. He went back to Yonkers in 2006 to be the campaign manager of a NY State Assembly race, and went on to become the chief legislative aide for the Yonkers City Council President. Aaron has appeared in the NY Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, Politico, and PBS NewsHour, among other media outlets, discussing a variety of issues impacting young Americans. In December 2010, he testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on the problems with “mini-med” plans and how they fail to provide affordable health care for young workers. Aaron believes strongly in the power of young Americans to change the world.

Heather Smith  Rock the Vote

Heather is President of Rock the Vote, a national organization dedicated to engaging and building political power for young people in the United States. Under Heather’s leadership, Rock the Vote built new tools and refined best practices for the continued engagement of young voters, setting the highest voter registration records in both midterm and presidential elections in the organization’s 20-year history.
Prior to Rock the Vote, Smith founded and directed Young Voter Strategies, a nonpartisan project in partnership with The Graduate School of Political Management at The George Washington University and also served as national field director for the Student PIRGs New Voters Project.

Lina Newton  Moderator, Hunter College

Lina is associate professor of political science at Hunter College, CUNY. Her research and teaching combine her broad interests in American politics, public policy, Latino politics, and race and ethnicity. She is the author of Illegal, Alien, or Immigrant: The Politics of Immigration Reform (New York University Press, 2008), and her latest work on federalism and the proliferation of state-level immigration initiatives (with Brian Adams, San Diego State University) appeared in Publius: The Journal of Federalism. She has been a member of the American and Western Political Science Associations since 1996, and served on the Executive Council for the New York Association of American Public Opinion Researchers. Newton received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine in 2002. She is the 2000 recipient of the Southwestern Political Science Association’s Ted Robinson Memorial Award for research in American minority politics.


  • MTV Fantasy Election

    “Fantasy Election works like this: build a “dream team” of candidates who are being truthful, transparent and civil on the campaign trail + get active in Election ’12 = win bragging rights, up to $25,000 cash and help get us closer to the democracy we deserve. Fantasy Election mimics a lot of what people love about Fantasy Sports, but instead of rewarding touchdowns and penalizing interceptions, it rewards honesty and penalizes incivility. It also rewards YOU for getting involved in the 2012 Elections, including reading campaign news, watching the Presidential debates, checking-in to a town hall event in your community…or even just testing your political knowledge with our “Rapper or Republican” and “Democrat or Diva” quizzes. Ultimately, this game is about trying to have a “Fantasy Election”: one that’s fun, one where candidates are honest and transparent, one where you get rewarded for getting involved, and one with a talking unicorn.”

  • Young Invincibles: Young American Ideas Book

    “Last fall, Young Invincibles set out to take the pulse of young America. We started by looking at the vital stats in the State of Young America report and poll, analyzing data and polling young Americans to compare the issues facing our generation to previous ones. Our findings were bleak. The young adult labor market shrank for a decade even before the Great Recession wreaked havoc. All but the most well-educated individuals have seen a decline in income. At the same time, the cost of college has risen dramatically. This means obtaining a college education and eventually a stable, decent income is increasingly difficult for our generation. Unsurprisingly, respondents in our State of Young America poll were anxious; the Great Recession diminished opportunity for millions. Nearly half of our generation wondered whether they would do as well as their parents. On the other hand, an overwhelming majority of young adults expressed optimism that they too could one day realize the American dream.”

Your Power to Decide: A Panel Discussion on Young Voters and the 2012 Election | Posted on August 29th, 2012 | Public Programs, Road to November, Student Events