Despite what many students think, it is relevant, Alexakis says
ASHLAND -- Some say it's a lack of issues they can relate to. Others that it's the seclusion of living on a college campus.
Whatever the cause, at Southern Oregon University there's truth behind the stereotype: College students don't vote.
In Oregon's May 19 primary election, only 15 of the 410 eligible voters cast ballots in the precinct that includes the campus.
As SOU freshman Mandy Bowlman put it: It's not important to our generation now.
Changing that perception -- and a bit of old-fashioned political stumping -- was behind a four-college Get-Out-The-Vote tour staged Wednesday by rock star Art Alexakis, lead singer of the popular Portland-based band Everclear, and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, who is seeking re-election.
Alexakis and Wyden, who have known each other for several years, stopped at Portland State University, Oregon State University in Corvallis and the University of Oregon in Eugene before arriving in Ashland.
They spoke to more than 100 students gathered at the Stevenson Union, urging them to take part in the political process.
Do something to get involved, Alexakis told the crowd, adding that he worked on Michael Dukakis' presidential campaign in 1988 and Bill Clinton's in 1992.
Though Wyden did most of the talking, Alexakis was clearly the bigger draw. Several students lamented the fact that it takes a rock star to drum up interest in politics.
I know that's the way it is and it bothers me, said student Ted Hilton Walker, who asked Alexakis about it during the event.
I'm here because if it helps bring 10 people out and five of them get the message, it's done some good, Alexakis responded.
Freshman Aaron Sword admitted that the chance to meet Alexakis brought him to the event but also said keeping up with politics and voting are important.
It's really important to vote, said Sword, who is 18 and ready to cast his first ballot. People who don't vote have no right to complain.
Wyden and Alexakis brought up issues such as student-loan debt, student child care and the cost of tuition. They spoke on social issues, including prevention of crimes like the one that took the life of a gay student at a Wyoming college last month.
I thought it could have been more in-depth, said sophomore Jonathan Paxman, noting that Wyden and Alexakis spoke for less than a half hour.
It's sad that we are known for having short attention spans.
While several students at Wednesday's rally said they will vote, they acknowledged not many do.
Living on campus, it's almost your own little planet, said freshman Tom Veeman. It becomes kind of a secondary priority.
SOU student senator Scott Young, one of the event's organizers, said students need to exercise the right to vote.
Students are in a position where they don't have much say, he said. The only way we can change that is to make students understand their vote counts.