City, Campus Leaders Look to Draw Students to Polls This Fall

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As voters prepare to tackle the various issues facing the city and state in this year's election, city and university leaders are both trying to get student voters to the polls on Nov. 2.

Jeremy Pilaar, the ASUC voter coalition co-coordinator, said he hopes to register 5,000 student voters during this election period by working with various campus organizations such as the Berkeley Student Cooperative, Cal Greeks and campus political clubs, among others.

The campaign will include installing registration drop-boxes in dorms in addition to establishing a visible presence in campus dining commons, on Sproul Plaza, at the Downtown Berkeley BART station and at Caltopia, he said.

With the help of Barack Obama's historical bid in 2008, Pilaar said the coalition registered close to 10,000 students - "an exceptional blip on the radar scale." The coalition this year will most likely rake in much lower numbers, typical of a midterm election.

Still, Pilaar said the coalition will try to register as many students to vote in Berkeley as possible, hoping that a large turnout will give both the university and the city more clout when asking the state for resources.

"When we lobby for services and money, we can point to that bigger number," he said. "So when we register voters, I do stress the local angle, but we don't aggressively push."

Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Gordon Wozniak and Jesse Arreguin - all of whom are up for re-election this November and currently represent the most heavily student-populated districts - have a similar interest in encouraging students to register in Berkeley.

Wozniak and Worthington estimated their districts are each composed of roughly 50 percent students. Of these students, however, only some may be registered to vote and an even smaller number will actually cast their ballot in Berkeley and not in their hometown - all making students' impact on local politics difficult to evaluate.

A high turnover rate among student voters - who may leave the city after keeping tabs on local politics for four years or fewer, if at all - breeds a lack of institutional knowledge, which may discourage students from voting for local measures, Wozniak said.

Pilaar said even though this year's gubernatorial race "is not energizing young voters," a few local initiatives, including the proposed amendments to the city's current Medical Marijuana Ordinance that could increase the number of cultivation locations throughout the city, may spark student voter interest.

"The city does a lot, and maybe only 10 percent of what the council does directly affects students," Wozniak said. "But we rely on citizen input, and it really helps to have the student input, too."


Contact Sarah Springfield at [email protected]

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