Remember when the Social Host Ordinance passed? Remember how infuriated everyone was? Did you feel helpless to change anything? The thing is, we’re not helpless at all. In fact, students have so much say that groups like Stop Voter Fraud have made attempts to disenfranchise the Isla Vista student community. Last week’s article, “Combating UCSB’s Voter Suppression,” discussed the latest attempts at disenfranchising students. It also brought up another interesting issue: Why should anyone care?
Now, let’s try this again. Remember the Social Host Ordinance?
However, those outside of the student community, or those who think the ordinance is a good thing, might still be unconvinced. After all, four years is not long compared to 15 or 30 years. But students are just as affected by the local laws as those residents who plan to spend a much longer time in the Santa Barbara County. Today, it is the Social Host Ordinance; tomorrow it will be something else — for example, employment laws. UCSB students not only live and study but also work in Santa Barbara County, therefore such laws could have a direct effect on their jobs and incomes.
Besides, while most students do move on after four years of college, some stay for much longer, either because they find work in the area or choose to attend graduate school at UCSB. Student groups, such as CALPIRG, are constantly working to solve environmental and social problems, not just nationally and globally, but also locally. If student groups can be involved in bettering the local community, they should certainly be allowed the right to have a say in the laws by which that community lives. Truth is, UCSB students are an integral part of the Santa Barbara community and they have as much right to a voice in local affairs as the other residents.
Even if you are still convinced that the student community is too transient to feel any long-term effects of local elections and legislation, student disenfranchisement is, simply, illegal and discriminatory. Nowhere in the requirements for voter registration in California does it say that you must stay in a particular city or county for a certain amount of time before you can vote, not to mention that disenfranchising students would also make it impossible for them to vote on statewide and nationwide issues. Nor are students the only transitory social group. Members of the military and their families move around a lot, as do low-income families. Should these groups not be allowed to vote either?
Interestingly, no one has attempted to disenfranchise mobile social groups in general, instead targeting students specifically. It would seem that the groups and candidates that wish to disenfranchise students are not so much worried about student transience as the fact that the student community is powerful, well-informed and likely to swing the election against them. On the first two counts, they are correct and, if they continue threatening our right to a voice, they will be right on all three.
Alexandra Lototsky is a third-year political science and Slavic languages and literatures major.