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Pundits Talk Politics In Rutland Sunday As Civic Engagement Series Continues

Married political pundits Mary Matalin and James Carville will be at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre Sunday. It’s the latest in a 14-month series aimed at boosting civic engagement during the presidential race.

Project 240, a collaboration between Castleton University and Rutland’s Paramount Theatre, is all about helping students and the community become more involved and invested in the democratic process. 

Over the past year, the Paramount has televised presidential primary debates and convention speeches with expert guests to provide analysis and answer audience questions. 

Castleton Univeristy’s Polling Institute held a mock Vermont primary and award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns presented The American Experience.

Turnout has been mixed, admits Rich Cowden, director of the arts at Castleton University. Getting people to come out for a debate that starts at 9 p.m. on a weeknight isn’t easy, he says. 

But with the presidential and gubernatorial races heating up, Cowden expects audiences to grow. And he hopes civic engagement will follow, especially for those just beginning to vote. He says that’s been one of the university’s goals with this series.

"[We want] to ... influence political discourse in a positive way and hopefully increase voter registration and turnout among college students." - Rich Cowden, Castleton University director of the arts

“[We want] to try to bring students into a common space with other community members with whom they may not interact, then influence political discourse in a positive way," he says. "And ultimately, hopefully increase voter registration and turnout among college students which is historically, in this area very very low.”

According to U.S. Census data, nationwide, only 38 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted in 2012.  

Project 240, which is named after the country’s age, continues this fall. The Paramount will screen the upcoming presidential and vice presidential debates as well as a gubernatorial debate.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company will perform The Complete History of America (abridged) and the series will conclude with what organizers are describing as a gala celebration on election night, Nov. 8.