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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 February 2008, 02:53 GMT
Obama energises Georgia's youth vote
By Rajini Vaidyanathan
BBC News, Atlanta

"It's good to vote. Voting is good. It's got our life at stake, really."

Sherika Grady
Sherika says voting will be crucial for her generation

Sherika is 20 years old and works in a shoe shop in Atlanta, Georgia.

She is one of the many young African-Americans whose vote could prove decisive this presidential year.

Getting young voters to turn out has always been an issue in elections, but Sherika thinks this year will be different.

"Everybody's excited about it. A lot of people in high school are more interested this year than last year. They're reaching out more to the youth because that's what it's all about - the youth."

Iraq focus

For first-time voter Cedric - who is 18 - this election is personal.

"My brother is 22 years old, and it's his third trip back to Iraq. And he's been shot once already. I just want him to come home. They've been fighting for too long."

Radio host Lorraine Jacque White
It's incredible, people are excited, they are energised they are looking forward to voting. It is an electricity, a fire as I have not seen ever in my lifetime
Lorraine Jacque-White
Talk show host

Talk show host Lorraine Jacque-White presents a phone-in on Atlanta radio station WAOK.

"The main issue that young people are interested in is the war in Iraq. And that is because if the war continues on these young people will have to go and fight in this war that they do not believe in," she says.

Judging by the interaction on her show, Lorraine Jacque-White believes there is a special energy among young voters this time round.

"It's incredible, people are excited, they are energised, they are looking forward to voting. It is an electricity - a fire - as I have not seen ever in my lifetime."

But will that fire translate to a higher turnout at the ballot box?

Youth vote

According to Professor Sean Richey from Georgia State University, the trends so far mean it will.

"I think it will have a massive impact," he says.

"This is an extremely close election, especially for the democratic primary, and if we look at the data we see that compared to four years ago, say for example in the S Carolina primary, the youth vote has actually doubled."

Professor Richey puts the increase in the youth vote down to one main factor - the Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama.

So far in the 2008 primaries, the Illinois senator has won the youth vote by a much greater margin than the other candidates.

In the recent South Carolina primary more than 60% of voters aged between 18 and 29 years of age opted for Mr Obama.

At 46, he is the youngest candidate in the pack, and has many young volunteers working on his campaign.

They believe it is Mr Obama's message of change which is resonating among first-time voters.

'Great representation'

One volunteer said Barack Obama's appeal lies in the fact many young people see themselves in him, and that he represents the first that a "baby boomer" will not be in the White House.

Eighteen-year-old Terence Nally, studying at high school, is one such supporter.

"He's the against the war in Iraq. He was against it from day one. He would also be a great representation for black men who are the stereotype here in America."

But, for many young African-Americans, race is not an issue in this campaign. Jack Keane, a 20-year-old college student, explains: "I really don't want it to be defined by race at all. I basically want the best man or woman to win."

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