Jerry Springer Stumps for Registration in Athens

Though no one was throwing chairs or fists, shouts of "Jerry! Jerry!" resonated through the Union Grill in Athens Friday night. Jerry Springer, talk-show host and aspiring politician, was the featured guest at an event to register student voters, sponsored by OU College Democrats and the Athens County Democratic Party.

"It's young people who are going to Iraq and dying," Springer told the crowd. "It's young, middle-class people who can't afford to go to college or are up to their ears in loans. If young people don't vote, politicians will never pay attention to young people. Do you think if young people voted, college tuition costs would be where they are? Of course not!"

Several students who attended the event agreed. "It is my democratic responsibility to register to vote and to support others in that action," said OU senior Carmel Pryor.

Others, like Lithuanian student Rita Stankeviciute and recent grad Becca Skrypeck, admitted they just came to see Springer.

Organizers predicted that Springer would attract a large crowd of students, regardless of their interest in politics.

"He reaches out to college kids because we grew up watching him," said Amy Flowers, president of the OU College Democrats.

College Democrats Vice President Mark Gaffney agreed. "He will draw people to the event because he's very eloquent and a strong believer in the democratic ideals."

Springer addressed a number of issues that will define November's election, including health care, unemployment, school funding, college tuition increases and the war in Iraq, and announced his support for Sen. John Kerry's stance on these issues. Springer also called President George Bush's administration "the most incompetent in my lifetime."

"America cannot stand another four years of George W. Bush," Springer declared. "He's wrong, he's horribly wrong. He's running on 9/11. How dare he... He's taking America's worst day and making it his best day."

Springer also stressed the importance of young people turning out at the polls. "Young people are dying in Iraq, but they won't take 20 minutes a year to go out and vote. That's got to change. It's an American duty. People are dying, get out and vote."

Several other local Democrats came out to show their support, including Athens County Democratic Party Chair Susan Gwinn and Athens Councilwoman-at-large Sarah Sexton, who urged students to vote a straight Democratic ticket.

Springer praised local Democratic efforts. "If all of America was Athens County, we wouldn't be at war, we wouldn't have schools that were underfunded," he said.

In response to polls released Thursday showing Bush with a significant lead among people most likely to vote, but a "dead heat" among registered voters, Springer said, "It's a call to arms. Wealthy, powerful people vote, and young and low-income people don't."

Flowers predicted the event would register between 150 and 200 new voters, but added that the College Democrats have already registered more than 1,000 students, beginning at Pre-college.

The College Democrats have been actively trying to promote student voters because "the continuation and success of a democratic government is dependent upon a participatory electorate, including students," said Gaffney.

True to form, Springer concluded his visit with an anticipated "final thought." After advising people that actually watch his talk show to "get some help," he concluded, "People are dying, we've got to vote."

Springer considered running for the U.S. Senate in Ohio this year, but then decided against it. He's considered a likely candidate in future statewide or congressional races.

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