Ushering in the Student Choice

    Christina Aushana/Guardian

    This is a landmark year in which students will receive not two, but seven polling locations — one per college, except in the case of Eleanor Roosevelt College and Thurgood Marshall College, which will share RIMAC.

    And the excitement won’t die just because the booths shut down. UCSD’s first-ever presidential Election Night Party will be held the same evening in Eleanor Roosevelt College’s Great Hall.

    A.S. Vice President of External Affairs Lisa Chen said that to attain the extended number of polling centers, she and Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Cynthia Davalos met regularly with the City Registrar and highlighted the problems of on campus voting in 2004, particularly three-to-four hour waits, before identifying their goal of having a polling location at each college and properly placing each of them.

    “Even just a few weeks ago, they were about to take out Muir as a polling place, but Muir and Price Center have historically been UCSD’s main polling locations so we fought against it and succeeded,” Chen said.

    Available to man the on-campus polling places will be 43 poll workers from the county registrar’s office.

    Once the hectic day of polling is complete, big-screen TVs, food, nonalcoholic drinks and political commentary from leading political scientists at UCSD will ensue. The free nonpartisan event will occur from 7:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., welcoming everybody in the UCSD community, and anyone else who feels like showing up regardless of their political affiliation.

    “Planning has been under way for over three weeks, and the crowd could be overwhelming,” said Barry Jagoda, director of communications at the Office of the University Communications and Public Affairs.

    According to Jagoda, while it takes leadership and a high level of efficient teamwork to organize such an event — a great part of which was facilitated by professor Thad Kousser and International House — the excitement surrounding the election makes it worth the effort.

    “The most expensive thing is a piece of pie and a large-screen TV,” Jagoda said. “All of the organizations have put up a little bit of money. It’s a small amount of money for a great educational and fun evening.”

    To spread word of the event, a large number of printed flyers were distributed, students were sent electronic flyers on their school e-mail accounts and information was circulated among relevant disciplines, such as political science.

    A.S. sent notifications to all UCSD students, asked all resident advisors to inform their residents of polling locations, and plastered information all over TritonLink. According to Chen, these methods have seen huge success.

    A.S. councilmembers have also expressed concern that commuter students recognize their vote will not be recorded the day of the election if they cast their vote at Price Center.

    “Though students registered off campus can technically vote in Price Center since it is the official provisional polling location, we’re strongly encouraging as many off campus students as possible to vote before coming to campus,” Chen said. “Provisional ballots only get counted two to three weeks later, and it’s best that their votes get counted on the same day.”

    In order to further streamline the voting process, the council plans to provide a variety of new conveniences.

    “The biggest thing is that so many people haven’t looked at the propositions, so we have these really easy voter guides, which are a poster of all the propositions, in hopes that students can make their decisions before they go to the polling locations,” she said. These proposition guides have been passed out to resident deans and student organizations on campus.

    Chen added that students need to be aware that they can’t wear any political attire into the polling site, as it’s considered campaigning.

    “They’ll make you turn your shirt inside out once you get into the polling locations,” she said.

    Meanwhile, student organizations such as Students for Barack Obama will make their presence known on Library Walk directing students to their proper voting locations since — according to chapter coordinator Apratim Ghosh — they agree that voting provisionally should be avoided.

    The UCSD College Republicans declined to comment on their Election Day activities.

    On the night of Nov. 4, several political discussions by leading political scientists at UCSD will be at the heart of the party, including a panel with Kousser, who specializes in legislatures, legislative elections and California politics. Other panelists will include James Fowler and Sebastian Saiegh.

    “I’m going to be talking about what to look for in the battleground states, Fowler will be discussing his much-publicized research about the Colbert-bump and how Democratic candidates receive fundraising boosts after appearing on [The Colbert Report] and Saiegh will give an international perspective since this is an event working together with I-House,” said Kousser, the faculty coordinator of the event.

    A precursor to this large-scale event was held for the 2006 midterm election, which nearly 250 students attended.

    This year, the coordinators and sponsors, including the Council of Provosts, comprised of all six UCSD college provosts; the Department of Political Science; International House; the Office of University of Communications and Public Affairs, say they can’t know for sure how many will attend, but are anticipating record turnout and are making sure they’re ready for it.

    “There hasn’t been this kind of energy around a presidential election since my freshman year in college when Bill Clinton was elected, and even that was nothing compared to this,” Kousser said. “When I talk to my students, all 175 of them say without hesitation that they’re registered and ready to vote, and all signs point to record youth turnout in this election.”

    Aside for preparing for massive attendance, the I-House staff will be helping out a great deal with preparations, along with two UCSD service-based fraternities.

    A student panel, including A.S. President Donna Bean, will be discussing how students can get involved in politics.

    Through live remote iChat, participants will be able to talk with Alec Weisman, who works on republican campaigns and is the social coordinator for the UCSD College Republicans.

    There will also be a question-answer session from St. Louis, Missouri, with Dan Palay, a recent UCSD alum and current Obama staff member.

    The Office of the University of Communications and Public Affairs, a co-sponsor of the event, said they do this because they want to involve the media so that people in San Diego know that there are students engaged in voting and the elections.

    “Radio, television and printed media all want the experts’ help in understanding what’s happening on election night, so they’ll be coming over to the event too,” Jagoda said.

    As Kousser put it, “This is a historic election and your grandkids are going to ask you where you were when the first woman was elected, or the first African American, and we want to make sure everyone has a good answer for it.”

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