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UCLA student groups beat USC in voter registration competition

Volunteers posed with the “Vote Goat,” which attended BruinsVote!’s last voter registration event Monday. (Miriam Bribiesca/Photo editor)

By April Hoang

Oct. 25, 2016 7:51 p.m.

UCLA student organizations registered more than 10,000 students to vote, beating USC in a voter registration competition.

UCLA student groups registered 10,109 students and USC student groups registered 411 students, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk announced Tuesday.

The Los Angeles County Registrar organized the competition in September to encourage both schools to register more students to vote.

UCLA’s BruinsVote! coalition, a group of seven student groups including Vote for Our Future and the undergraduate student government Office of the External Vice President, fell short from its goal to register 15,000 students. USC Undergraduate Student Government and the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics aimed to register 2,000.

Rafi Sands, Ungergraduate Students Association Council external vice president and a director of BruinsVote!, said this year’s voter registration drive was the largest in UCLA history. UCLA beat its 2008 record, when student groups registered about 8,500 students.

He said he thinks the registration turnout was significant because many students are dissatisfied with the choice of presidential candidates, which can cause a lack of motivation among voters. But students still signed up, he said.

“Considering the unfavorableness of the presidential candidates this year, it’s even more incredible to break 2008’s record, when Obama had so much hype with young people,” Sands said.

[Read more: Experts predict Clinton win during Hammer Museum lecture]

BruinsVote! held voter registration events almost every day this quarter, with the exception of Sundays, Sands said.

Sands said he thinks student voter turnout is not as significant to USC students.

“I almost feel bad that they registered so few people,” Sands said. “It’s like clear civic engagement and active democracy is not so important to them.”

USC Student Body President Edwin Saucedo said USC held an average of two events per week this quarter. He said USC student groups campaigned in front of dorms and at tables around campus perimeters, but some students they talked to were already registered.

He added the USC student groups focused more on getting students to register in general, and less on whether they registered with their USC address or not.

“If someone wanted to register in Texas, we didn’t need to encourage them to reregister in California,” Saucedo said.

Instead, USC student leaders educated students about whether they need an absentee ballot and how to get one, he added.

“State budget decisions that affect public schools don’t really affect us as a private institution,” he said.

Saucedo said he thinks students have become more politically involved since USC began its voter registration drive three years ago.

He added he thinks BruinsVote! set a good example of unity.

“I think it was amazing, the mobilization efforts we saw from UCLA,” Saucedo said. “In general, we are excited to continue this momentum, but overall we’re just happy that we’ve seen interest in students to register and be part of the political process.”

Yara Hejazi, a director of BruinsVote! and executive director of Vote for Our Future, said he thinks the UCLA student groups were successful in registration efforts because they worked together under BruinsVote! instead of independently.

“Although we didn’t reach our goal, it was definitely a success because we were able to get different groups united under a single goal that benefits UCLA,” Hejazi said.

Hejazi said he thinks the competition helped increase civic engagement among students.

“If you vote, then policymakers, local politicians and the next president and senators know that you exist,” Hejazi said. “And they’ll keep you in mind when they’re drafting policies.”

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

Sands said he thinks support from administration, dorm-storming efforts and the fact that BruinsVote! is nonpartisan helped encourage more students to register on campus.

Vote for Our Future will continue its voter registration efforts after election season, focusing on smaller elections that happen throughout the year, Sands said.

Saucedo said he thinks the most important goal from now on will be making sure the students who registered to vote actually show up to vote on Election Day.

Sands said his office hopes to prepare students and maximize turnout on Election Day by educating them about where their polling locations will be, and highlighting information about different candidates and ballot measures on social media.

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April Hoang | Campus Politics editor
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