CALPIRG, BruinsVOTE! efforts pay off in unprecedented student midterm turnout
Pollworkers said 4,669 students turned out to vote at the five most student-heavy precincts near or at UCLA for Tuesday’s election, a 537 percent increase from the 2014 election. (Liz Ketcham/Assistant Photo editor)
November 9, 2018 1:26 am
Tuesday’s midterm election saw a 537 percent increase of in-person student voters from the 2014 election.
Pollworkers said 4,669 students turned out to vote at the five most student-heavy precincts near or at UCLA for Tuesday’s election. This figure does not include early or mail voting, but it already exceeds overall turnout from the 2014 midterm election, which includes early and mail voting, by 120 votes.
Nico Gist, a UCLA coordinator of California Public Interest Research Group at UCLA and a fourth-year political science student, said CALPIRG at UCLA contacted 30,000 people at UCLA to get out the vote leading up to the election.
“We’re changing the narrative. Students are recognizing if we don’t turn out we won’t have a say,” Gist said. “But if we turn out, we can have a huge impact on the local, state and federal level.”
He added CALPIRG contacted 500,000 people in its get-out-the-vote effort statewide.
BruinsVOTE!, a voter registration coalition made up of campus activists including CALPIRG and the Undergraduate Students Association Council external vice president’s office, registered roughly 2,000 voters this quarter.
USAC External Vice President Jamie Kennerk said she thought the relatively high youth voter turnout made the campaign’s effort worthwhile.
“Honestly when I found out 6,800 students voted in person, I just kind of cried,” Kennerk said. “It was such a validating experience to know after six weeks of blitzing and hard work and having to beg my office to do more hours to get people to turn out to vote, that it was all worth it.”
About 31 percent of young adults ages 18-29 turned out to vote, the highest turnout in at least 25 years, according to a survey conducted at Tufts University.
Kennerk said the high turnout is especially meaningful considering this is a midterm, rather than a presidential election. In 2014, only 8.2 percent of eligible 18-24 year olds in California voted in the midterm election.
“I think that having this success in a midterm just says a lot because a lot of times that’s one of the elections that gets no excitement, no attention,” Kennerk said.
Arden Levy, a co-director of BruinsVOTE! and second-year geography student, said she felt the the voter registration campaign’s efforts were effective in encouraging students to become more civically engaged.
“Personally I want to see a culture change in young voters,” Levy said. “This is a really good start.”