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USAC Elections 2024SJP and UC Divest Coalition Demonstrations at UCLA

USAC encourages students to register to vote

Second-year international development studies and economics student Carly Calbreath helps a fellow student register to vote on Bruin Walk.

Last day to register to vote: Monday

Forms for registering to vote in the Nov. state and general elections must be submitted

By Nikki Somani

Oct. 19, 2012 12:53 a.m.

Students wandered into SEAS Cafe, a small eating place located near the engineering lounge in Boelter Hall, lured by a sign that read “Free Coffee: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.” Aleli Caluza sat inside with a clipboard full of voter registration forms in hand and a bowl of fortune cookies on her table.

As students walked by and registered to vote, the third-year economics student placed a “Like” stamp with a thumbs-up sign on their hands.

The free coffee in SEAS Cafe is one of the several strategies the Undergraduate Students Association Council external vice president’s office has used to encourage students to register to vote in the upcoming election.

StudentsVOTE!, a subgroup of the external vice president’s office, is leading the voter registration push this year, said R.J. Jimenez, fourth-year political science student and co-director of the voter registration campaign.

In addition to free coffee, members of the external vice president’s office and the StudentsVOTE! program partnered with the Office of Residential Life to give presentations about voter registration to floor meetings on the Hill. They also registered students on Bruin Walk and at the Enormous Activities Fair in September and set up a voter registration link on the MyUCLA home page.

The StudentsVOTE! program first started in 2008. That year, volunteers working with the external vice president’s office registered about 8,000 UCLA students to vote. This year’s volunteers have registered about 2,500 voters.

The coalition’s goal is to register 5,000 students to vote by Monday ““ the last day people can register to vote for the November election.

Student volunteers noted there is a decrease in the number of students registering to vote through the external vice president’s office compared to 2008.

The decrease could be partially due to new legislation in California that allows people to register to vote online. Students may prefer to use online voter registration to the traditional paper registration, said Lana Habib El-Farra, third-year political science student and the USAC external vice president.

Fall quarter also started a week later this year, so they had one less week to register voters, Jimenez said.

Volunteers working to register students come from the Office of Residential Life, the external vice president’s staff, and other organizations on campus such as CALPIRG, Amnesty International, Bruin Democrats and Bruin Republicans, said Gurneet Pannu, fourth-year psychology student and co-director for the StudentsVOTE! component of the USAC external vice president’s office.

Volunteers often encounter students who are hesitant to register.

“I’m hearing things like, “˜I don’t want to vote. I don’t like any of the candidates. I don’t think my vote would count,'” Pannu said.

Some volunteers have heard students say they are worried that they may become eligible for jury duty by registering to vote, which is not entirely accurate.

Jury duty lists are compiled from many different sources, including the Department of Motor Vehicles as well as voter registration records, according to a voter registration drive guide from the California Secretary of State. Individuals are eligible for duty as soon as they obtain a driver’s license, regardless of their voter registration status, Pannu said.

Rebecca Dehnel, a third-year psychology student, was registered to vote in San Diego and re-registered this year to vote as a Los Angeles resident.

“I think often college students slack off because they’re used to not having the responsibility of needing to vote,” said Dehnel, who registered to vote from a link sent to her email by USAC president David Bocarsly.

Volunteers involved in the voter registration push will try to get closer to the 5,000 mark tonight at the Your Voice Your Vote 2012 concert, which is taking place from 8-10 p.m. in Ackerman Grand Ballroom. The concert is organized by the USAC Cultural Affairs Commission, the External Vice President’s Office and the Campus Events Commission.

The event will include local artists and guest speakers.

“It’s supposed to be kind of a celebration as well as an opportunity to educate students on the importance of voting and the importance of making your voice heard,” Jimenez said.

Election Day is Nov. 6 and there will be places to vote both on the Hill and in Westwood, El-Farra said.

“It’s just really important for students to get their voice out there, regardless of what students vote for,” El-Farra said. “It’s just important that they voice their opinion.”

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Nikki Somani
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