Saratoga County

Group finds new voters at concert

Caitlyn Grenfeld of Latham celebrated her 18th birthday on Friday by registering to vote and rocking

Caitlyn Grenfeld of Latham celebrated her 18th birthday on Friday by registering to vote and rocking out to the Dave Matthews Band.

“I’m excited about the election,” Grenfeld said. “I get to participate in what happens with our country.”

She’s still weighing whom she favors for the November presidential election.

“Both of them have good points and they also have bad points,” she said of Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama.

Grenfeld was one of at least 200 people that the nonprofit, nonpartisan voter registration group HeadCount expected to register to vote Friday night at the Dave Matthews Band concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

HeadCount aims to register more than 100,000 voters at some 1,000 concerts and festivals this year. In addition to the Dave Matthews Band, the organization that started in 2004 has volunteers traveling with Jack Johnson, Pearl Jam and John Mayer on their concert tours.

Volunteer Ashley Davis worked the crowd going to and from the concession area while six other volunteers fanned out in the parking lots to sign people up to vote.

“HeadCount was founded with live music in mind,” Davis said before the gates opened Friday evening. “There’s a community that exists around music anyway.”

And registering at the concerts is easy because it doesn’t require finding a form or making a trip to a courthouse during daytime hours when most people work.

Davis provided the forms for New York voters, which then get sent to HeadCount organizers, who sort and file them with the appropriate municipality.

At least one new voter was really excited about Obama.

“We actually have someone telling us that things are going to change,” said Dan Cusyk, 19, of Syracuse.

“We definitely need to realize that everything can’t be made thousands of miles away. We can’t just have things be made in China and shipped to us,” Cusyk said.

He said he has been looking forward to his first presidential election since he was 16.

Eva Nowakowksi of Syosset was already registered before she came to the concert and plans to cast her ballot for Obama.

“I just think that it’s time for a change,” the 21-year-old said. “Bush is nuts.”

And Jared Kramer isn’t too excited about either candidate.

“I’ll probably end up voting for Obama because Bush failed,” the 18-year-old Clifton Park resident said. “I think McCain represents the policies of the past. He seems to be a lot like George W. Bush.”

The two candidates will have to work harder to sway some other new voters.

“I’m excited about the election, but I’m not excited about the candidates,” said Michael Campbell, 24.

The Fort Ann resident hasn’t voted in a few years since he was registered in the military.

“I read about this in the paper and thought, ‘I can register to vote,’ ” he said.

Twenty-four-year-old Ryan Brainard of Owego registered for the first time on Friday but hadn’t made a decision either. “I don’t really have any political views,” he said.

Davis, 23, of Conifer, Colo., is volunteering with HeadCount this summer before she heads to graduate school in the fall to get a degree in public service at the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas.

The four traveling volunteers in her team meet up with local volunteers at each concert location on the Dave Matthews Band tour. They get a food stipend and their lodging and fuel is paid, but they don’t otherwise get paid for the job.

Davis said she is enjoying her summer on the road. “I love traveling. It’s kind of like one big, long road trip.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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