Students Lead Voter Registration Efforts
Oct. 18, 2012
By Elizabeth Chapin
California’s new online system has made registering to vote a lot easier—and with campus communities emphasizing the importance of civic engagement and students leading registration efforts on campus, record numbers of CSU students are registering to vote for the upcoming election.
Young people who are enrolled in college are more likely to vote than the national youth average—and once registered, more likely to turn out on Election Day. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement reports that of the 70% of college students registered to vote in the 2008 election, 87% cast a ballot.
But with California’s Oct. 22 voter registration deadline looming, student leaders say there’s still work to be done when it comes to reminding their peers to vote.
Associated Students leader Nycole Baruch, who has led student registration efforts at CSU Monterey Bay, says many students may not register because they don’t think they can vote if they are living away from home.
“Students may get confused on the ballot because there’s both a home and mailing address section. Or they might have questions about whether to vote by mail or go to a polling place,” Baruch said. “So we really just want to get students as informed as possible about how to register, and how to register correctly.”
The California State Student Association is in the midst of an effort to register 10 percent of the CSU’s entire student population. Student leaders like Baruch are volunteering at registration booths around campus and spreading the word online. Some CSUs have partnered with online voting tools like Turbovote, which are designed with the tech-savvy generation in mind. The efforts have been successful.
“As of Oct. 15, about 18,000 CSU students have registered to vote,” said Pedro Ramirez, a CSU Long Beach student and CSSA’s vice president of legislative affairs.
“We’re already breaking record numbers for voter registration turnout,” Ramirez said. “Based on past experience, students wait until the last minute to register to vote, so we’re expecting many more.”
Student leadership is also sponsoring events like political debates and presidential debate viewing parties—aimed to help students understand the issues and get excited about participating in their democracy.
“A lot of students feel a disconnection when it comes to politics,” said Cipriano Vargas, CSU San Marcos ASI leader and student member of the CSU Board of Trustees. “They don’t really follow the issues or know why it’s so important for us to voice our opinions. But it’s crucial that students vote and that legislators hear our voice – until that happens, what matters to us won’t be a priority in Sacramento or D.C.”
For more information on the November election, visit California's Secretary of State Official Voter Information Guide.