With student voter apathy, organizations set up registration booths

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(Right to left) Landon Pflughoft, electronic media management major, and Alex Pike, theater major, look at information at the voter registration booth set up by the Gender and Women’s Studies Students Association. Photo Credit: Mandi Gosling / Staff Reporter

When supplemental instruction leader Jocelyn Duarte asked her Central American Studies 113A class how many of the students were registered to vote, she was surprised when less than half the class raised their hands.

“Almost the whole class was eligible, but have not registered,” Duarte said of the class made up mostly of students 18 years old or older.

Duarte’s poll of her class paints an even bleaker picture than statewide averages of the lack of young registered voters.

In a report published by the Public Policy Institute of California, researchers found only 67 percent of 18 to 34 year olds statewide are registered to vote and only 30 percent of the same age category were likely to vote in the upcoming election.

This apathy towards voting has motivated some student organizations on campus to set up voter registration booths in hopes of educating and enrolling anyone eligible to vote.

Members of the Gender and Women Studies Students Association (GWSSA) and Students for Quality Education (SQE) have teamed up and will have a voter registration and information booth set up in the Sierra Quad periodically leading up to the election on Nov. 2.

John Anderson, president of the GWSSA, said informing students about the candidate platforms and details of the ballot measures is key to registering voters.

“When people find an issue that directly affects them or something they can be newly impassioned about, it gets them out,” Anderson said. “My first election was the last one and Prop. 8 got me out there.”

The information booth provides yes and no arguments for all nine propositions that will be on the ballot.  In addition, the platforms of Republican and Democratic candidates for the offices of governor, lieutenant governor and U.S. Senate are available.

Anderson said although his group is willing to share their point of view on the candidates and the propositions, they do not want to tell people who to vote for.

“We just thought it would be best to show both sides, so even if you don’t agree with us, still vote, it’s important,” Anderson said.

Alex Pike, theater major, said although many students may know voting is important, life can get in the way of political participation.

“Students are busy, we don’t get a lot of time, and life is so hectic,” Pike said, who thought voter information booths on campus could help students who want to be informed but can’t find the time.

“In between classes, you can pick up knowledge and not look to lobbyists to tell you what to do,” Pike said.

Other organizations that hope to influence voter outcome are also popping up on campus to recruit voters as election day draws nearer.

CSUN graduate, Tasha Finken, who volunteers with Organizing for America, formerly known as Obama for America, said the Democratic group will be on campus every day leading up to the voter registration deadline on Oct. 18.

Finken said she started volunteering to recruit voters four months ago because she felt the political tide turning against the current administration.  She worries that people who two years ago voted Democratic might have expected to see more economic improvement already and decide to vote for a Republican instead in the upcoming election.

“I know there are a lot of people who are really upset,” Finken said.  “They are so quick to turn around and they don’t give it (improvement) a chance to happen.”

In the three weeks she has been recruiting CSUN students, Finken said their organization has registered between 20 and 30 people a day.

“The young ones are especially taking the initiative to come and register,” Finken said. “They’re excited.”

Newly registered voter Antonio Romero, 18, said he felt a sense of responsibility to go to the polls even though he is somewhat afraid of the future of the country.

“It’s kind of scary in a way,” said the freshman.  “You’re growing up already and you’ve got to think about your future and what the United States is going to go through, so that’s kind of scary.”

Romero, economics major, is one of the many students in Duarte’s CAS 113A class who was not registered to vote.  She and fellow supplemental instructional leader, Ana Velenzuela, took the students to the voter registration booth in the Sierra Quad to give them an opportunity to register if they wanted to.

If his teachers had not brought the class, Romero said he probably would have not registered.

“I would have just walked by, I wouldn’t have really cared,” Romero said. “But I have to know a thing about it, I have to register already and think ahead.”

Thinking ahead is exactly what Duarte and Velenzuela hope their students are learning in the class. They said they are concerned that because of their youth, the students may not realize there are laws in jeopardy of being changed depending on how the people vote.

One of the laws Duarte is most concerned about is abortion rights.

“(Carly) Fiorina wants to repeal Roe v. Wade and these are things that are very important and very real and something that their generation takes for granted,” Duarte said. “So we have to make sure we are guarding our rights.”

She said she hoped the students would take advantage of the student-run voter information booth and learn about each candidate’s platform and the purpose of each of the propositions.

“I think this is such a great event because it actually breaks down the different propositions and all the jargon and stuff for them to understand,” Duarte said.

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