Stuart Johnson, Deseret News.
Brad Kohler signs the "Declaration of Involvement" as part of the UR Vote Counts campaign at the Provo Towne Centre on Friday.

PROVO — As the 2008 presidential election gets closer, teenagers are rarely the target of political advertising or old-fashioned, campaign-trail stumping, but that doesn't stop some from wanting to be more involved.

"I really wish I could vote," said 17-year-old Rebecca Johnston of Mapleton.

Although shy of the minimum age to cast a vote, Johnston is keeping a close watch on this year's election. Hers is exactly the kind of enthusiasm organizers of the UR Vote Counts campaign are trying to drum up from teens around the country.

The campaign, which made a stop at the Provo Towne Centre mall Friday, will visit 150 malls in 42 states in two months. The idea is to get teens involved in a political conversation sure to impact them now and in the future.

Even though she said it might sound strange, the Springville High School student ranked immigration foremost of the issues she is concerned about, followed closely by high gas prices. In a place like Utah, she said, people need to be concerned about illegal immigration, and she'd like to see some reform. The campaign gave her an opportunity to make

her voice heard.

"It was really cool, because I don't get a chance to vote in this election," she said.

After watching both the Democratic and Republican conventions recently, Johnston said she would support Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., if she could, although she mostly likes his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

At the mall, booths were set up to allow the teens to secretly cast their votes on which issues matter most to them and who they would like to see as the next U.S. president. The issues ranged from national security to health care to the environment. Before casting their votes, they had the chance to sign a Declaration of Involvement, which said, "We hold these truths self-evident: That all issues are not created equal, everyone's voice matters, and being informed is always a powerful place to be."

Another teen, 17-year-old Nikkie Higgins of Provo, said she doesn't feel like the election is being stressed enough in school. But while she'll keep an eye on the outcome, she doesn't feel the result will affect her much.

Her friend, Spencer Shaw, 17, of Provo, said that even though he isn't really concerned about the election, his parents are interested in the process.

"I've heard a lot about Barack Obama," he said. "He has these fantasy ideas about changing the world, but he can't even change the U.S."

For Bernard McCastle, 16, of Provo, however, the prospect of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., becoming the first black president would be something worth voting for. He said the campaign is an important thing for teens to participate in, and schools should be more involved in sponsoring events or activities like the UR Vote Counts campaign.

"It was cool," he said. "They asked us about rights. Teens should have rights, too. I think teens should be allowed to vote."

Obama's race wouldn't be the main guiding factor in McCastle's choice for president, but rather things like gas prices and health care. However, he said, Obama would look out for people's interests in a way President Bush did not.

Visiting from San Diego, 16-year-old Jason Gunn said he is most concerned about the gay rights issue facing California this election, and he's against gay marriage. If he had the chance, his vote would go to McCain.

"It's cool that they let us have a part in it," he said, "even though we don't have a say."

The campaign is sponsored by General Growth Properties Inc., a real estate investment trust. The group operates more than 200 shopping malls in 44 states.


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