UCSB’s voter registration drive has surpassed its goal by nearly 1,000 students, registering 7,895 student voters for the upcoming election.
The campaign, which ran from mid-September to Oct. 18, registered more voters than any other junior college, California State University or UC campus in the state. UC Berkeley came in as a distant second with 4,851 registered voters.
The drive was organized by the University of California Student Association in conjunction with Associated Students and the UCSB Voter Registration Volunteer Coalition.
Doug Wagoner, A.S. External Vice President for Statewide Affairs, said the high registration numbers are a testament to the university’s culture of political activism.
“The fact of the matter is that our students care so much,” Wagoner said. “For several elections now, UCSB has been one of the highest-ranking schools across the nation in voter registration. We have a really strong history of it on this campus and I know that we’re doing really well compared to our brothers and sisters across the state.”
According to Wagoner, the importance of young voters was solidified when the youth vote surpassed the elderly vote for the first time in history in the 2008 election. As such, the registration campaign has focused largely on showing students the importance of their political input.
According to Nayra Pacheco, a Vote Intern in the UCSB Office of Student Life, students often don’t realize the extent of their influence in local politics.
“It is definitely important that we take a look at our local measures and encourage each other to vote locally because we hold a lot of power here,” Pacheco said. “We are the group who actually made the decision on who was going to be our 3rd District Supervisor.”
Elysse Madarang, the Statewide Organizing Director in the EVPSA Office, said she hopes students realize both their influence on the outcome of elections as well as the impact their elected officials can have on them.
“The next governor will appoint people who sit on the Board of Regents,” Madarang said. “The Board of Regents affects us directly because they decide the budget for the school.”
Third-year biology major Joel Kirksey worked with the coalition to battle voter apathy by volunteering at a voter registration booth outside of Davidson Library.
“I want to be able to make a difference,” Kirksey said. “When you get older, do you want to be the guy that has to tell his grandchildren he was the apathetic college student that never voted?”
The drive’s aim to engage the community in regional politics has targeted both current students as well as alumni anxious about the university’s fate in upcoming years.
After graduating in 1982, UCSB alumnus Martin Henderson said she regularly returns to the campus to motivate students to involve themselves in the local political process.
“I’m concerned with this campus and the future of our beloved community,” Henderson said. “I usually sing, shout, and hold signs out here to get people to notice us and register.”
Despite the campaign’s great success, Pacheco said the efforts to engage the student body are far from over.
“It’s only the beginning,” Pacheco said. “Now we have 7,895 people that we need to make sure will go out and vote. We are going to be spending a lot of time with voter education.”
Wagoner said the VRVC and its affiliates will now focus their energy on ensuring a high voter turnout in the upcoming election.
“Registration is only half the battle,” Wagoner said. “I really encourage every Gaucho to get out the vote during this election and get to the polls Nov. 2.”
The constant emphasis on the significance of upcoming elections not only helped to register thousands of students, but also to encourage many to join the fight and do their part as volunteers for the VRVC.