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Millennials will save us!

It’s November 2004 in the nation’s election battleground, the swing state of Ohio. It’s raining hard as voters, many fed up with the Bush administration and looking for a chance to express themselves, are coming out to vote. Lines are particularly long in Gambier, Ohio, a small town of about 2,000 people. Gambier’s major industry is Kenyon College, which sprawls through the heart of town. Like many small liberal-arts colleges, Kenyon was a bastion of youth activism in the 1960s and ’70s. But in 2004, although the Kenyon campus is a beehive of intellectual activity, political and social activism are no longer the hallmarks of the college experience.

Many freshmen and sophomores are thrilled to be voting for the first time, especially in such a hotly contested election. One in particular, then 19-year-old freshman Matt Segal, heads to the polling place at 6 a.m. and votes quickly. He stays to volunteer at the polls, but he soon sees long lines forming, forcing people to wait for hours for their turn in the booth. Those who stick it out will, in some cases, end up waiting for 12 hours or more. That Election Day, the last person finally cast their ballot at 4 a.m. “It was injustice,” Matt tells me years later; I can still hear his outrage. “I was frustrated, but I was also energized. I said, 'We’ve got to do something about this. This isn’t the way democracy was sold to me.'"

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