Increased Registration May Make Student Votes More Influential

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The success of a drive to register student voters may prove to be the deciding factor in tomorrow's city elections.

Nearly 8,500 UC Berkeley students registered to vote as part of a statewide effort that attracted more than 40,000 college students, one of the largest numbers in recent history.

"We have more people registered this year than in the last presidential election, which is a really big accomplishment," said Mo Kashmiri, Graduate Assembly external affairs vice president. "This year could be the year of the student voter."

The large number of registered student voters comes in a year when overall voter turnout is expected to be below average, which may give students a more significant voice in city elections, said UC Berkeley political science professor Bruce Cain.

"If students favor one Berkeley candidate over another, they could be a deciding vote," Cain said, though he noted UC Berkeley students are "notoriously independent" in their voting patterns.

The competitive mayoral race between Tom Bates and Mayor Shirley Dean may offer student voters yet another opportunity to flex their political muscles.

"Elections where it is very evenly balanced provide a unique opportunity for Cal to affect the outcome of the election and to have more power with the City Council," Cain said.

Increased student voter registration has made students a more noticeable voice in political campaigns, said Jimmy Bryant, ASUC external affairs vice president.

"The candidates were not really that interested in pushing for the student votes," Bryant said. "Now all of the sudden their race is going to come down to a hundred some votes-they are fighting over the students' votes."

Both mayoral candidates see the student vote as critical to their victory.

"I have been on campus 35 times, and I have made (students) an important part of my campaign," Bates said. "The student vote could make a difference if students turn out to vote."

Dean said she has also targeted students in her campaign.

"We were always working for the student vote," Dean said. "We were on campus, and we had a debate in a political science class. They were all chances to meet more students on the campus."

More UC Berkeley students may go to the polls because two of their peers are running for City Council in Districts 7 and 8, Cain said.

By improving voter turnout, students have an opportunity to forge the political futures of their districts, Bryant said.

"We can really turn the tide in District 7 and 8 because (students) make up such a strong portion," he added.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who is running against UC Berkeley student Micki Weinberg in District 7, said he carries the support of the majority of UC Berkeley students.

"Students can have an enormous amount of power in this election," Worthington said. "My hope is that we have registered enough students to actually swing the balance to get a City Council that works together."

In addition to candidate races, ballot measures and propositions affecting student life may encourage voting among students.

"There are a lot of important propositions this year that will directly affect students," Kashmiri said, citing Proposition 52, which would allow election day voter registration.

This proposition would allow for a much greater student voter turnout because students, who frequently move every year, often do not remember to re-register, Kashmiri said.


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