A.S. Council Joins Drive to Register 4,000

    A number of campus organizations — including College Democrats, College Republicans and CalPIRG — have organized voter registration drives over the last several weeks. Next week, A.S. Council will join the ranks of election-enthused activists on Library Walk with their own voter registration initiative.

    Members of the A.S. External Office will set up shop alongside numerous voter registration drives taking place on campus this month, holding a nonpartisan drive on Library Walk and at Student Center next week in a push to register 4,000 students before California’s Oct. 20 registration deadline for the upcoming presidential election.

    Current voter registration numbers place UCSD fourth among the 10 UC campuses in most student voters registered during campus registration drives.

    “UCSD is pretty politically active, but obviously there is always room for more involvement by the student population,” A.S. Vice President of External Affairs Lisa Chen said.

    In the final three days of UCSD’s Welcome Week leading up to the first day of classes, Chen led volunteers from her office in registering almost 1,700 incoming freshmen to vote in the election.

    “The voter registration drive that the Associated Students External Office is leading is part of the larger University of California Student Association vote campaign, which is the largest nonpartisan voter registration drive in California,” Chen said.

    The registration drive was manned by students working as nonpartisan representatives in order to neutrally encourage students to exercise their right to vote.

    “UCSD students are bombarded by various interest groups on Library Walk,” Chen said. “But most of those people either get paid to do that work, are being given money by their organization for each card they get or they simply aren’t students but rather community members,” Chen said.

    Although politically partisan nonaffiliate groups are also allowed to register student voters on campus, Chen stressed that one of the primary goals of the A.S.-sponsored election drive is to strengthen the student voice at each UC campus.

    “The Associated Students in coalition with UCSA is a student-run, student-led voter registration drive that has a main purpose to build student power at each of our campuses,” Chen said.

    She added that the registration drive should demonstrate to lawmakers the importance of the student voice in this election.

    “We are not pushing some political agenda, but rather showing legislators that students need to be heard and we are an electoral constituency that needs to be recognized.”

    According to the University of Maryland’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, people aged 18-29 will make up 25 percent of the electorate in 2008, up from 21 percent in 2006.

    It is possible the same demographic could account for a full third of the electorate by 2015, C.I.R.C.L.E. predicts.

    “Voter registration is critical in a healthy democracy and it’s essential that we encourage students to be a part of the political process,” Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Penny Rue said. “Our students want to make an impact on the world and we support them during this election year.”

    During the 2004 presidential election, a number of students waited for over four hours to vote, due to a lack of available polling places on campus.

    Additionally, campus poll workers ran out of ballots long before polls closed because they neglected to anticipate a strong student voter turnout, forcing a number of students to cast their votes on Vietnamese-language or Spanish- language ballot forms.

    “These were major concerns of mine, so we have identified six different polling places on campus so that students will not be turned away by long lines come Election Day,” Chen said.

    In order to correct this problem, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, in conjunction with the university’s Office of Student Affairs, has planned to double the number of polling locations set up on campus from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. for the Nov. 4 election.

    Campus polling locations on Election Day are set to be stationed near each of the university’s six colleges, as well as at RIMAC Arena, Mesa Apartments and Price Center.

    To further build upon the registration effort, organizers also collaborated with the San Diego County Registrar’s Office to create a Web site that details the voting and registration process for students who may be unfamiliar with the system.

    The site contains a list of voter FAQs as well as a link encouraging students to contact the A.S. office with any questions that aren’t listed.

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