UC Voter Turnout Eclipses Statewide Rate

    Students turned out to vote in droves Nov. 4, utilizing the seven polling places arranged throughout campus. Leading up to the election, various student organizations worked to register student voters. (Jimmy Kan/Guardian)

    Student voters at the University of California’s 10 campuses turned out to cast their ballots Nov. 4 at a higher rate than the statewide average, a UC Student Association statement reported last week, and UCSD saw the second-highest turnout within the UC system.

    In first place was UC Santa Barbara with an 81.5 percent turnout in eligible voters, followed by UCSD at 74.2 percent and UC Santa Cruz in a close third at 72.8 percent. The state of California had an overall average turnout of 67.5 percent.

    The report showed voter turnout at the three UC campuses as exceeding the average turnout of nonaffiliate voters in the campuses’ respective districts. At UC Berkeley, 63.6 percent of students voted, while only 60.1 percent of nonaffiliates in the district turned out. UCSC students voted at a rate of 72.8 percent, compared to the 68.8 percent of Santa Cruz city voters who cast ballots, and at UCLA the 71.9 percent of student voters trumped the 69.6 percent turnout rate of its surrounding district.

    “Students’ high voter turnout in this election speaks volumes about where youth are today and where they’re going,” Jennifer Knox, organizing and communications director of UCSA, said in an e-mail. “Young people are engaged and taking an active role in shaping the world around them. Much of the voter registration, education and turnout work that took place on campus was peer-to-peer, meaning young people are paying attention themselves and working to spread that energy among their peers.”

    In the weeks leading up to the election, student leaders across the UC system pushed registration and encouraged students to vote. At UCSD, Vice President of External Affairs Lisa Chen organized an A.S. voter registration drive, and volunteers for the UC Students Vote! group made phone calls to nearly 20,000 students to remind them to vote and knocked on a total of 4,100 doors in residential areas with the highest concentration of students.

    Volunteers also stopped and conversed with over 8,000 students on campus in an effort to increase turnout, reminding students of their assigned polling locations and answering any last-minute questions prior to Nov. 4.

    On all the UC campuses, student governments worked alongside other campus organizations to build nonpartisan voting coalitions and register new student voters.

    Turnout data was prepared by county clerks for Statement of Votes, upon analysis of precinct-by-precinct registration and turnout statistics. Currently, data has not been analyzed for UC Riverside, UC Irvine or UC Merced.

    “So far we’ve only gotten results back from some of our campuses, but the early results have been amazing,” Knox said. “We were hoping to get an average of 65 percent turnout or more on campuses and it looks like we will far exceed that goal. Students have been the deciding factor in many local and even state races. Our work in the past election will change the way students’ issues are prioritized in this state and nation, so we’re looking forward to building on our voter turnout to win larger victories for students in the coming months and years.”

    Student voter turnout has traditionally been lower than the average California turnout. In 2002, UC students voted at a rate 15 percent lower than the rest of California. However, in the most recent presidential primary, that gap closed to a mere 6 percent.

    “We saw that student voter turnout has been strengthening over the past couple election cycles, and knew that students’ enthusiasm for this election coupled with our strong Get Out The Vote campaign would be a recipe for success,” UCSC junior and UCSA board member Victor Sanchez said in a statement.

    In addition to encouraging the larger turnout, UCSD students and administrators planned ahead to double the number of campus polling locations to prevent the long lines that voters experienced during the 2004 presidential election.

    “I do believe students can sustain [turnout] and even grow [in influence] from the last election,” Knox said. “Young people have seen their work start to pay off and I think that will keep them excited about tackling bigger and more challenging issues in our society.”

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