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UCLA and USC going head to head in raising student voter turnout


UCLA and University of Southern California will compete this fall to see which school can register more voters in time for the general election. (Courtesy of Melissa Miller)

UCLA and University of Southern California will compete this fall to see which school can register more voters in time for the general election. (Courtesy of Melissa Miller)


UCLA and University of Southern California are competing to register students to vote with a voter registration drive this fall.

The competition, which started Sept. 15, will challenge each school to register the most students to vote, according to a Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk press release.

Los Angeles County registrar spokesperson Mike Sanchez said the registrar helped initiate the competition and will provide election materials, posters, training and other materials upon request from both schools.

“A voter registration competition between UCLA and USC is the ideal way to engage Bruins and Trojans with our country’s political process, as it increases excitement by invoking our mutual campus pride,” said Yara Hejazi, executive director of Vote for Our Future, in a statement.

[Related: Campus clubs work together to promote student voter registration]

Rafael Sands, Undergraduate Students Association Council external vice president, said the BruinsVote! coalition, which is a collaboration between seven student organizations that aims to register students to vote, hopes to register 15,000 UCLA students by the Oct. 24 deadline. He added the BruinsVote! coalition will also host events to promote its cause.

“(On) Tuesday of weeks one through four, we will be in Bruin Plaza from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” Sands said. “We’re going to have speakers, guests, music and giveaways especially, from the 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. hour.”

Vote for Our Future President Austin Steinhart said he is most concerned about what he thinks is a lack of public understanding of the election process.

“We’re trying to help them understand some of those little details that may hold people back and dissuade students from voting,” Steinhart said.

Hejazi said another challenge is that UCLA students often don’t register using their UCLA address while they attend school.

Because voters are assigned polling places according to their registered address, Hejazi said students who live on campus should write their UCLA address so they can be closer to their polling place. UCLA will have several polling places in November, Hejazi said.

USC Undergraduate Student Government and the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics will organize USC’s voter registration efforts to register 2,000 voters.

USG President Edwin Saucedo said USC is also enthusiastic about the registration drive and will largely focus on big kickoff events on Sept. 27 for National Voter Registration Day and during spring semester.

“Last year, we registered about 500 to 600 students in the fall, and (about) 300 to 400 students in the spring,” Saucedo said.

Saucedo is working with USC administration to send out a campuswide email encouraging students to vote, and will table in the lobbies of some dorms.

Some student volunteers said they think getting students excited about voting is just as important as registering them to vote.

“There is a lot of student apathy regarding this election because they think it’s only about the presidential race, when in reality there are 17 California ballot measures,” Sands said.

[RELATED: Bruin political groups gear up for the upcoming election season]

Saucedo said political apathy is a challenge he’s faced so far with this project. He said he thinks students express little enthusiasm for the presidential election because they don’t support Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton or Republican candidate Donald Trump.

“It’s hard to be engaged if you’re not excited about your potential next president,” Saucedo said. ”As a result, students don’t want to be part of the system and engage with the voting process.”

Saucedo added he thinks student governments should have voter registration initiatives every year.

Despite the campus rivalry, members of both UCLA and USC’s voter registration efforts believe getting students to vote is more important than winning the competition.

“Beyond registration, we want to make sure that they vote in all of their elections because if you don’t vote on Tuesday, you waive your right to complain on Wednesday,” Saucedo said.

The voter registration drive will end on the last day to register for the election, Oct. 24.

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