Voter registration rally held on Sproul Tuesday

Kore Chan/Staff
A woman registers to vote in Downtown Berkeley. September 25th marked the first National Voter Registration Day.

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A voter registration drive and rally near Sather Gate on Tuesday aimed to publicize California’s new online voter registration system and to register new voters.

Vote Coalition, a nonpartisan ASUC organization and part of the Office of the ASUC Vice President of External Affairs, organized the effort with the participation of campus chapters of Voto Latino, CalPIRG and Cal Berkeley Democrats. The Vote Coalition aims to register 12,000 people before the Oct. 22 state registration deadline.

From noon until 1:30 p.m., ASUC Senators Daley Vertiz and Klein Lieu led a sparsely attended rally next to Sather Gate during which speakers from CalPIRG, the ASUC and the Greenlining Institute spoke briefly, along with UC Student Regent Jonathan Stein, who encouraged students to register online.

“It takes two minutes,” Stein said.

Stein also spoke in support of California’s Proposition 30, framing the issue as a question of the future of the University of California system.

“Proposition 30 is about whether we believe in public higher education and whether we, as a state, value the UC,” Stein said in an interview.

The university will face $250 million in midyear budget cuts if the proposition, which aims to temporarily hike upper-income and state sales taxes, fails at the polls in November.

The ASUC Senate unanimously voted to support the proposition at its Sept. 12 meeting.

CalPIRG also had a table set up near the gate with laptops students could use to register to vote online. But Dylan Clark, a CalPIRG intern working on the New Voters Project, said that some students seemed leery of online registration.

“Honestly, I’m not that comfortable with online registration,” said Jessica Ortiz, a campus junior. “AirBears doesn’t feel as secure as paper registration, especially when you’re using your Social Security number.”

Lilly Adams, CalPIRG’s UC Berkeley chapter chair and coordinator of the New Voters Project, said that CalPIRG had been pushing for online voter registration and working with state representatives like Assemblymember Nancy Skinner to make it possible.

“It’s really important for civic engagement,” Adams said.

The UCSA and CalPIRG also lobbied for the passage of SB 397, which set up the online registration system and which was passed at the state Legislature’s most recent session.

Vote Coalition will be tabling throughout the semester on Upper Sproul Plaza. It also plans to table in residence halls Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and in dining halls between Oct. 1 and Oct. 5. Volunteers also plan to go door to door in residence halls on Oct. 11.

The majority of students walking through Sather Gate streamed past the rally as the presenters spoke, though some stopped to listen to CalSLAM poets Gabriel Cortez and Isabella Borgeson.

Contact Gautham Thomas at [email protected]