"We need change in this country and now is the time to be sure that happens," the actor says about traveling across Florida in a registration drive

By Linda Marx
Updated October 26, 2008 11:00 PM
Credit: Storms Media Group

With nine days left before the presidential election, actor Matt Damon is trying to keep Americans fired up and eager to vote.

Damon is participating in the Florida VoteFest ’08 Sunday and Monday, a statewide initiative to encourage people to vote early.

“I took time off from acting until the end of the year to be with my family and enjoy our new daughter,” Damon told PEOPLE at a jam-packed Barack Obama rally Sunday in West Palm Beach, Fla. “But it is very important for me to do what I can to help the Obama campaign so people will go out and vote. We need change in this country and now is the time to be sure that happens.”

Damon, 38, wearing jeans and a white T-shirt under an open, short-sleeved, gray shirt, just returned from participating in a food bank in San Francisco, where he got a taste of reality.

“I learned that only 10 percent of the people at the food bank were actually homeless,” Damon told the crowd at the rally. “And 90 percent were people who work and play by the rules yet can’t afford to feed their kids. We have to change that.”

The actor, who is involved in VoteFest ’08 with actresses Alicia Silverstone and Kerry Washington, will travel by car to several south Florida cities, including Miami, Hollywood and west Fort Lauderdale, talking to the crowds and explaining to children how important it is for their parents to vote.

“I cannot tell you how great it is to be home with my family and enjoy our new daughter, [2-month-old Gia],” Damon tells PEOPLE. “But it is my responsibility to thank the American people for taking an interest in the political process. And in the next two days, I am asking them not to get complacent.”