ELECTIONS Students send voting effort up the river
The group traveled about 2,300 miles on the river.
Some months back, a group of Colorado College students were talking politics, and the subject of voting came up.
They talked about how large numbers of their age group -- 18 to 25 -- don't bother to vote. They wondered what they could do about it. Somehow, the idea of paddling the 2,300 or so miles of the Mississippi River to encourage voting came up.
On June 1, they put in at Lake Itasca, Minn., where the river begins. Over the next two months, they paddled south, passing Minneapolis and, in Missouri, Hannibal and St. Louis. They've camped along the river, cooking their meals over fires.
On a recent afternoon, the group of 15 or so paddlers landed in Memphis, Tenn., where they held a voter-registration rally.
"We're just a bunch of people whose love of our country is connected to our love of the outdoors," said Kerri Kuhn, a 23-year-old native of Peoria, Ill.
The trip is being funded in part by a $10,000 grant from the National Education Association and another $10,000 from U.S. Cellular, which has also given the group free phones to use during the trip.
In addition to registering voters, the group is asking them to sign a pledge to vote. Group members plan to call everyone they've registered in the weeks before the election to remind them to vote.
Although all the paddlers have political views, Kuhn said their mission is nonpartisan, only encouraging people to vote.
Several local organizations had information booths at the event, including the local Libertarian Party, Mpact Memphis and the League of Women Voters.