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Berkeley, CA – A student coalition that includes statewide student government leaders from all three California public higher education systems and CALPIRG’s New Voters Project gathered at UC Berkeley on National Voter Registration Day to kick off their youth voter mobilization campaign across the state. At the event, CALPIRG Education Fund released the results of their student survey on voting, The Voting Intentions and Opinions of Students.
“We’re gathered here today to tell the world that we plan to vote and we plan to get our friends to vote, too. The youth vote is getting stronger and more diverse every year – but that’s not to say our work is finished. What I’ve seen is a huge number of students fed up with legislators who don’t listen to us or the communities we come from, or students who are just confused about how voting works.” said Caitlin Quinn, External Affairs Vice President for UC Berkeley Associated Students and UCSA Board Member.
According to the CALPIRG Education Fund survey of more than 1,000 students last spring, most students want the college to do more to reach out to students about voter registration, where and how to vote, and what’s on their ballot. Notably, 86 percent of students surveyed thought that universities should send out all-campus emails reminding students to register to vote.
“Thanks to online voter registration, it’s easier than ever to register to vote,” said Murong Li, CALPIRG Students Berkeley Chapter Chair and Executive Committee Member for CALPIRG Students. “We’re working to make sure that all eligible students get the opportunity to register at their current address before the deadline.”
Most experts are concerned that voter participation in upcoming November election will be lower than previous statewide general elections. The student organizations hope to counter these predictions by launching voter registration drives on their campuses. These drives will include not only traditional voter registration drives that include tabling and class announcements, but also online voter registration. The coalition created a website, www.CAstudentvote.org, with an online voter registration tool powered by Rock the Vote and additional resources that help students navigate the electoral process.
Additionally members of the coalition will be doing follow up to students who register by phone, text, email, and on social media, passing along information about when and how to cast their ballot and linking to resources like www.votersedge.org for information about what’s on their ballot.
CALPIRG Education Fund’s student survey offered recommendations to colleges and universities to help encourage student participation in the electoral process.
The actions college and universities can take to support student participation in elections include:
- Make sure campus policies encourage student governments and student groups to help register their peers to vote.
- Use online voter registration tools that facilitate follow-up election reminders.
- Work with county registrars to provide visible, accessible voting options for students on campus.
- Remind students when, where and how to vote.
- Empower voters with information about what will be on their ballot, by hosting candidate and issue forums and making non-partisan information available to students.
“Colleges and universities in California should see it as an essential part of their educational mission to prepare and encourage students to take an active role in our democracy,” Sonya Soltani, Vice President of Legislative Affairs for California State Student Association.
According to Political Data Inc. nearly half of all mailed ballots that were too late to be counted in 2012 were cast by 18-29 year olds. SB 29, authored by Senator Correa (CA-34) would allow vote by mail ballots to be counted if they were mailed on Election Day. Additionally, SB 113 authored by Senator Jackson (CA-19) would allow pre-registration of 16-year olds. Both bills are awaiting Governor Brown’s signature.
“Governor Brown may sign both SB 29 and SB 113 this week. It’s common sense to allow 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote, and to allow vote-by-mail ballots to count as long as they are postmarked by Election Day,” said Li. “These two measures will remove two common barriers that prevent young voters from either registering to vote or casting a valid ballot.”
“We’re ready to turn out to vote for the upcoming elections,” said Victor Costa, Region III External Affairs Senator of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges. “The SSCCC represents over two million students at over a hundred colleges, so we’re to change the political landscape.”
The organizations participating in the press conference represent over three million California students: the University of California Statewide Student Association (UCSA), California Student Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG Students), California State Student Association (CSSA), and the Student Senate for California Community Colleges (SSCCC).
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