UC Berkeley students weigh benefits of voting in Berkeley versus in their hometowns

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Rachael Garner/File

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For many UC Berkeley students, voting in this year’s election included the task of deciding whether to register in Berkeley or in their hometown — a decision that potentially impacted the outcomes of local elections.

“I think it’s great that students have both choices. … If you might be the deciding vote for who will be in the United States Congress, that’s a pretty compelling reason to vote at your family home,” said retiring Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who represents the majority-student District 7. “I think it’s also important to have a sizable number of students registered in Berkeley. If all of them registered at home and none of them registered here, we would not have officials as sympathetic to students’ concerns.”

Torn between providing input on Berkeley issues and maintaining a voice in their hometowns, conflicted students ultimately landed on both sides of the decision.

A common reason students cited for voting in their home districts was the opportunity to vote in a more contentious race, a sentiment shared by students hailing from Indiana, Pennsylvania and Texas, as well as more competitive California districts in Orange County and El Dorado County.

“If I voted in California, I just feel like my vote wouldn’t mean as much, but in Philadelphia, my district is really in the middle and I felt like my vote could actually matter,” said Andrew DiCandilo, a campus sophomore from Pennsylvania.

Students also expressed connections to local politics in their hometowns, invoking impacts on family members still living back home and possible plans to return after college. Campus freshman Anjika Pai said she has yet to begin seeing Berkeley as her home.

Some students who voted in their home districts said they had considered registering in Berkeley, expressing that they would have liked to vote on propositions and candidates that would impact student life.

“Honestly, I kind of went back and forth on voting here and voting in my local district because I mainly live here now, so I thought it might be more important,” said Melina Webb, a campus sophomore who ultimately voted in her hometown in El Dorado County, California.

Unlike Webb, campus freshman Emily Greer, who is from Indiana, did decide to vote in Berkeley because she said she felt it would be more important to vote on issues directly affecting where she currently lives despite the competitive nature of the Indiana Senate race.

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay, whose office led a voter registration campaign on campus, said in an email that her office wanted students to register to vote where they felt the most connected.

Khalfay said it “makes complete sense” for students to stay registered in their home districts if they feel that their votes will have larger impacts there, but added that student engagement and student voices are also important in the city of Berkeley and Alameda County.

“Since many students are only here for 2-4 years the votes we make contribute to improving the lives of students for generations to come and (that’s) an incredible responsibility and opportunity,” Khalfay said in her email.

Contact Alex Teodorescu at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @AlexTeodorescu8.