For the past several weeks, students at UC Davis have complained about being asked if they‘re registered to vote three times a day. But there was a purpose to all those persistent democracy enthusiasts, and their ceaseless efforts have paid off.
“September and October have been huge registration months for us,“ said Freddie Oakley, Yolo County clerk-recorder. “We haven‘t had an increase [in voter registration] this large in five or 10 years.“
“Five weeks ago we were at 92,000 [registered voters] right now we‘re at 102,000,“ she said. “We usually run at 90,000.“
Oakley said the jump in voter registration was due, in part, to the massive voter registration drives on the UC Davis campus.
Davis College Democrats teamed up with Students for Barack Obama to put on the largest of these on-campus voter registration drives.
In total the two groups registered 4,000 voters.
The majority of those registered were students, but not all of them, said DCD president Don Gibson.
“We did get quite a few members of the UC Davis staff and people visiting UC Davis,“ he said.
Many of those registered by Davis College Democrats and Students for Barack Obama were not Democrats or Barack Obama supporters, Gibson said. About 55 percent of those registered indicated they were Democrats.
Both groups are part of Yolo United, a coalition of local Democratic groups organized by the Yolo County Democratic Party.
Other members of Yolo United focused on registering voters in the community.
“People went in front of stores, especially in areas where there would be a higher concentration of underserved voters,“ said Claire Slotton, executive director of Yolo United.
They concentrated their efforts on registering eligible voters from lower-income and lower-education backgrounds, and people who have recently become citizens.
All in all, the groups of Yolo United registered about 9,000 voters in Yolo County. Of these, just over 6,000 indicated they were Democrats.
CalPIRG, a non-partisan public interest group, was the other major force behind on-campus voter registration.
The group registered 2,101 voters, doubling their numbers from previous registration drives by the group, said campus organizer Margaret Howe.
Howe stressed the importance of registering students in particular.
“In recent decades, students haven‘t been paid attention to by politicians,“ she said. “We want to make sure students turn out in record numbers this year so that politicians pay attention to us and issues we care about.“
All voters registered in Yolo County can participate in early voting all this week at the old post office in Memorial Union from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“If you‘re a first time voter, it‘s especially convenient to go to the early voting because it gives you time to figure out the process without the pressure of people waiting behind you,“ Oakley said.
Regular voting takes place at locations across Davis on Nov. 4. Voters can look up the polling place for their precinct at yoloelections.org.
JON GJERDE can be reached at email@example.com.