published Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Voting-night party in Chattanooga aimed at Hamilton County millennials

IF YOU GO

The party will start at 6 p.m. Thursday at Miller Plaza. Residents can RSVP by visiting www.wevotedparty.com.

TENNESSEE VOTING

Voting and registration by age in Tennessee, 2010

Age Group - Voted Registered - No Vote - Not Registered - No Response

18-29 - 16% - 33% - 34% - 16%

30-39 - 30% - 31% - 23% - 16%

40-49 - 35% - 27% - 18% - 20%

50-59 - 46% - 18% - 18% - 18%

60-69 - 55% - 17% - 15% - 12%

70+ - 52% - 22% - 16% - 10%

Voting and registration by age in Tennessee, 2012

Age Group - Voted Registered - No Vote - Not Registered - No Response

18-29 - 42% - 17% - 29% - 12%

30-39 - 54% - 13% - 21% - 12%

40-49 - 49% - 15% - 21% - 14%

50-59 - 60% - 11% - 15% - 13%

60-69 - 67% - 8% - 17% - 8%

70+ - 67% - 12% - 13% - 9%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Census

One Chattanooga businessman has a plan to encourage millennials to head to the polls this week — throw them a party.

"Honestly, I'm so tired of people in my age demographic -- I'm 34 ... I'm just so tired of them complaining and having all these great opinions and not doing anything. I'm tired of not doing something," said Joe Ledbetter, one of the original founders of Chattanooga Whiskey. He since has left the company leadership.

To energize Hamilton County's youth vote, Ledbetter's new company, Barrelhouse Labs, is renting Miller Plaza on election night and letting in anyone with an "I voted" sticker.

Admission is free, but beer will cost $5. Ledbetter said he only expects to cover overhead -- but any proceeds will go to a yet-to-be-determined nonprofit organization or community group.

U.S. census records show that residents between the ages of 18 and 49 in Tennessee are much less likely to vote than those who are 50 and older.

In the 2010 congressional election, 16 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 voted. And 30 percent of 30- to 39-year-old residents voted. Even the 40-to-49 group was 10 percent less likely to vote than the 50-to-59 crowd.

Numbers were a bit higher in the 2012 presidential election, but they followed the same trend. Forty-two percent of 18- to 29-year-olds turned out statewide. And 54 percent of the 30-to-39 group voted. The 40-to-49 cohort nearly hit 50 percent, but the 50-to-59 crowd was squarely at 60 percent.

Michelle Deardorff, the head of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's political science department, says this is not a new trend.

Younger voters have always been less likely to vote -- but they typically are involved in their communities in other ways.

"This isn't a crisis for democracy. We've negotiated it for a long time. People -- particularly younger people -- participate politically, just not always by voting," Deardorff said.

Trends show voters in the 18-to-35 bloc are more active at the polls when there are issues that directly affect them -- such as a draft -- or when there is a highly charismatic candidate, she said.

But most of the time, homeowners and residents who have paid taxes for many years make up the biggest voting group.

"As a norm, I think it's when people own homes and start worrying about zoning laws, that's when people start getting that community investment," she said.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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