It is Important for Students to Vote for More Than Just the President

Take Proposition 30. The sales and income tax initiative is Gov. Jerry Brown’s only lifeboat to save education (both K-12 and universities) as we know it in the state. If the proposition does not pass, it will trigger $6 billion in education cuts this year. The language alone is compelling. According to Student Regent Jonathan Stein, tuition fees will go up 15 percent per year if Proposition 30 does not pass (5 percent if it does). At this rate, total tuition will reach $24,000 a year — unprecedented levels for the public university system. The situation is dire, and inaction is costly — literally.

But despite this information, despite the fact that countless state and university leaders have blatantly stated that our tuition will go up if Proposition 30 is not passed, our voter registration numbers remain woefully bereft. It’s a problem that comes up during every election — the political mobilization of the American public, but more specifically, of college students.

Judging from straight numbers, the situation seems dire. According to census data from this year, only 49.3 percent of the population aged 18-20 has registered to vote. In the 21-24 year range, the number only creeps up to 56 percent. Why only half of young Americans have registered to vote (registering to vote is still not, of course, actually voting) remains a hot topic for political science professors to discuss, but the simple truth is that most people, especially college students, wallow in political apathy. Perhaps it is the two-party system that causes disenfranchisement, or the electoral-college system. But unless life-altering, bank-draining changes (like tuition hikes) are around the corner, people just don’t really give a damn.

And now, especially now, they should. Monday was the last day to register to vote, and the numbers at least, look promising. The Student Organized Voter Access Committee, a non-partisan student organization, registered 1,700 student voters in two and a half months, 1,300 from move-in day alone. This brings UCSD’s voter registration numbers to 15 percent of the student population, a low number (considering the census data) but shockingly, still catapults our campus to the no. 2 spot in terms of registration in the University of California behind Santa Barbara.

Their efforts, which primarily centered on getting freshmen and sophomores registered during move-in weekend, bumped up the school’s voter registration from 6 percent, the lowest among the universities.

While SOVAC’s efforts should certainly be commended, 15 percent of the student population registered is not enough, especially since a lot of registered voters don’t end up voting. Take the 2008 elections for example. While 64.9 percent of the population registered to vote, only 58.2 percent actually voted. So don’t be the 6 percent that sleeps in on Election Day (not that that is even a deterrent). You’re registered to make a difference, so make it.