More Than 40,000 Students Register to Vote, UCSA Reports

In a push to increase youth participation in next week’s presidential election, the UC Students Association, in conjunction with the UC Students Vote! Project, has registered 42,007 UC students — including 3,936 from UCSD — in the most successful voter registration drive in university history.

UCSD’s student voter registration ranked fourth nationally, topped only by UC Santa Barbara’s 10,241, UC Berkeley’s 9,425 and UCLA’s 8,519.

UCSA Organizing Director Jennifer Knox said UCSA worked primarily through student governments, but also teamed with smaller, nonpartisan student organizations.

“We started out our work last year for the primaries, registering 13,714 UC students to vote,” Knox said. “The registration initiative was successful because we started really early, with a big training session at UC Berkeley, where 75 students were trained to start work before school even started.”

Registrants conducted the bulk of the drive at student housing complexes, stationing themselves over each of the system’s 10 campuses to maximize awareness and convenience. They also recruited volunteers to assist in the effort.

UCSD A.S. Vice President of External Affairs Lisa Chen said this year’s drive has had statewide impacts, drawing the attention of public officials to the university’s potential as a foundation for political leverage.

“Historically, students have been viewed as politically apathetic, but that’s changed with this election,” she said. “We’re going to have a huge impact. Just in the UC system alone, we made half of what California’s national numbers are. Over 40,000 new registered voters is a huge feat. Legislators and campaign managers are becoming more aware of the UC system as a base of power.”

At the UCSD campus, Chen said the California Public Interest Research Group and the A.S. Council registered the most voters, but that other groups — such as Students for Barack Obama and Students for John McCain — also made substantial contributions to the final tally.

In addition to coordinating a registration drive with the A.S. Council during Welcome Week, Chen led volunteers in registering nearly 1,700 incoming freshman in the last three days before classes began.

Knox said it is possible that the rate of voter turnout among UC students will exceed the statewide percentage on Nov. 4, considering that UC student voter turnout for the California primary election in February stood at 52 percent, compared to the 58 percent of California residents who voted.

UC campuses also participated in College Bowl, a national competition made possible by a partnership between MySpace and the national nonpartisan voter registration groups Declare Yourself, HeadCount, Student PIRGs, Rock the Vote and the United States Student Association.

The winning school will be awarded a free concert with Death Cab for Cutie, and the individual student to register the most people will receive a free concert on campus with Colin Meloy, lead singer and songwriter for the Decemberists.

UCSD came in fifth in the competition, preceded by UCSB, UC Berkeley, UCLA and Rutgers State University.

“The UC schools did exceedingly well since UC students are very active in registering themselves and others on campus,” said Barnett Zitron, director of Ultimate College Bowl. “It’s a culmination of the current political and economic climate that’s causing this generation to weigh in on what happens.”

He said there has been a shift in political strategy to reach young people — such as the creation of College Bowl — that has yielded impressive results.

According to Chen, polling locations on the UCSD campus have tripled this year to avoid the three- to four-hour wait that was unavoidable during the 2004 election.

All six colleges will host their own polling locations except for Eleanor Roosevelt College and John Muir College, which will share RIMAC Arena. Price Center will serve as a provisional polling place, but A.S. councilmembers are encouraging off-campus students to vote at their designated polling places if possible.

“We discourage using a provisional ballot since it only gets counted three weeks after the election and it’s a long process,” Chen said. “Our 43 poll workers will be ready, and we’re prepared for a big voter turnout.”