Photo Credits: MARKUS KAEPPELI / AGGIE. The MU patio leads to the rooms at Memorial Union used as a polling place on campus. Efforts by CalPIRG has enabled UC Davis' polling place to have same-day voter registration. Nov. 8, 2019.
MU polling place will have same-day registration by 2020 general election
For the 2020 general election in November, students will no longer need to drive to Woodland for voter registration during voting day if they have forgotten to register: the MU polling place will house conditional or same-day voter registration once construction is finished.
This development comes on the heels of efforts by different groups to prioritize voter registration by combating voter apathy and voting accessibility, including ASUCD’s #UCWeVote campaign, the Yolo County Elections Office’s YES! (Youth Empowerment Summit) and CalPIRG’s Youth Voters Project. Members of CalPIRG, an all-volunteer organization, lobbied the California legislature for the passage of SB 72, which mandates same-day voter registration at all California polling places. Before the legislature’s passage, same-day voter registration was only available at district elections offices — a barrier for Davis students without cars or without time to bus to Woodland.
Though same-day voter registration will definitely be available for the November general election, it remains uncertain if this type of voting will be available in time for the March presidential primary.
Since voting isn’t mandated by law, the U.S. has a lower voter turnout than other developed countries, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center study. Inconvenient polling places and election indifference are two of the biggest barriers for youth voters.
UC Davis CalPIRG Chair Emily Webber said, historically, younger voters have a lower turnout than older voters. Through the Youth Voters Project, she emphasized that politicians can’t advocate for the wants and needs of youth voters if they don’t vote.
“We really highlight that need to have people between 18 and 29 voting so that we can be heard and so our politicians have our priorities,” Webber said.
Last year, CalPIRG chapters across eight of the UC campuses were able to register over 6,000 new collegiate voters and build phone banks with over 500,000 numbers, Webber said.
“We text those numbers before an election to make sure people have a plan and ask if they know their polling place,” she said. “Even if people are registered, they don’t show up to vote because they don’t know their polling place and don’t have the motivation to find out.”
That’s where same-day voter registration comes in, according to Jesse Salinas, county clerk for the Yolo County Elections Office.
“In the 2018 general election, over 400 voters were able to vote via same-day voter registration,” Salinas said by email. “It creates more opportunities for citizens and residents of California to engage in their civic responsibility.”
Salinas also said the office involves students in civic engagement through other initiatives, such as creating public service announcement videos for the UC Davis campus and local movie theatres, running the student body elections at Yolo County high schools and hosting YES!
YES!, an annual event that began in 2018, is held in September and aims to educate youth about the political process. The office is moving the event to March to encourage more 18-year-old high school seniors to attend — hopefully increasing their likelihood of voting in upcoming elections.
Salinas shared data taken from entrance and exit surveys of the event. During the most recent 2019 summit, students were asked to rate the statement “I understand why it is important to vote and how the voting process works” on a scale of strongly disagree to strongly agree.
Before YES!, 2% of students marked “disagree,” 12% marked “neither,” 30% marked “agree,” and 26% marked “strongly agree.” After YES!, 58% of students marked “agree” and 42% marked “strongly agree.”
ASUCD Organizing and Advocacy Director Ben McDougall tries to improve students’ understanding of the power of their vote through the #UCWeVote campaign.
“We’re a non-partisan office, so we present students with the facts of different situations in the City of Davis or nationally,” he said. “We tell them, ‘Whether you want things to stay the same or change, you have to register to vote.’”
He also said students need to remember to re-register once they move to Davis, especially if they’re switching their permanent address, in order to have a say in local issues. McDougall emphasized that students have the opportunity to vote for the construction of more housing projects when such measures are on the ballot, such as 2018’s Measure L, which zoned land for the construction of a senior housing project.
The challenge with registering voters, he said, is convincing them that their vote matters.
“It’s very important that the student vote get out because historically the city residents have had disproportionate power in the elections,” McDougall said. “But the residents of Davis are not our enemies — we want to work with them and communicate with them through a more even vote.”
So far, #UCWeVote has organized voter registration during move-in weekend and Welcome Week. ASUCD volunteers worked alongside volunteers from J Street, Davis College Democrats and CalPIRG, setting up multiple stations across freshman dorm areas — McDougall said almost all of Cuarto is now registered to vote.
“You may not want to vote in your 350 million person election where the popular vote doesn’t matter,” he said. “But here, you’ll be one of 12,000 voters — that vote is quite a bit different.”
Written by: Janelle Marie Salanga — email@example.com