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Unleash your inner voter

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SEPTEMBER 28, 2012

Help students cross the brink of apathy in order to vote this November. Non-partisan support in this effort — in terms of ASUC and American politics — must align to ensure that the student voice be heard around this city, this state, and this country. CalSERVE tarnished the fight for Proposition 30 with partisan exclusion in the ASUC Senate this fall, and that type of behavior cannot have a place in the ASUC Vote Coalition.

The office of External Affairs Vice President Shahryar Abbasi, along with a variety of other student groups and volunteers, is leading an ASUC campaign — aptly named Vote Coalition— to increase voter turnout this election cycle. Though it is not yet as visible as ASUC campaigning in the spring, the coalition’s booth has been a staple on Sproul Plaza with substantial success. In the last few weeks, more than 2,000 students have registered on those beautiful bureaucratic papers. The program also secured “dorm storming” for the first time ever at UC Berkeley, gaining limited access to door-to-door voter registration in the residence halls.

Without even touching on the presidential election — Proposition 30, Measure R and Measure S will all drastically affect students’ lives this November. Whichever way you swing on these issues, the consequences are tangible. On one hand, Proposition 30 would shoot down a mandatory tuition hike for Cal students, and on the other, wealthy Californians may drain the economy by leaving the state — with their businesses — due to higher taxes. Measure R would change Berkeley’s charter to make room for a redistricting proposal that could enable a student to sit on the Berkeley City Council. Measure S will decide on the legality of those who sit and lie on select sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The implementation of such a rule may change the vibe of Telegraph Avenue, the level of crime in certain neighborhoods and the sense of home for those who this measure will directly touch. Register in Berkeley, rather than your hometown, to bring about your desired outcome.

ASUC politics cannot get in the way of this campaign, as it did with Proposition 30. Although the ASUC Senate unanimously supported the proposition in a bill, CalSERVE flaunted in its press release title that the “ASUC Senate passes CalSERVE bill supporting Prop 30.” CalSERVE Senator Klein Lieu did write the bill, but that does not make it an exclusively CalSERVE bill. Hoarding such an important piece of legislation as the property of one party neglects those who have worked equally hard to push for Proposition 30. The press release does not acknowledge the work of other senators, including those in Student Action, SQUELCH!, the Cooperative Movement Party, and independents, who amended the bill heavily but were denied official authorship. In fact, the press release doesn’t mention that there was unanimous support for the resolution, or that other senators co-sponsored the bill, when that would only make the accomplishment larger although less isolated to one party’s achievement list. Putting pride above legislation cannot be tolerated with the ASUC Vote Coalition as it was with Proposition 30.

So far, the Coalition has seemed to stay in line with non-partisanship in the American sense as well. Vote Coalition and Proposition 30 campaigns are both facets of the EAVP’s office, posing a potential conflict of interest, but the two are wisely separated during the campaign so as to remain a non-partisan outreach program. Those staffing the coalition table don’t even mention the words Republican or Democrat, in order to strive for impartiality.

Berkeley College Republicans Executive Director Shawn Lewis doubts this neutrality, and said in an email that he worries the coalition could be “registering students of one partisan affiliation over another” due to the participation of “highly partisan and ideologically one-sided groups.” While Lewis has a valid concern, the participation of BCR in the Vote Coalition could quell his concerns by diversifying the coalition. Multiple emails to members in BCR show the EAVP office seeking to “add Berkeley College Republicans to the Vote Coalition,” without reply. The coalition recognizes the necessity of having both the College Democrats and BCR in it, and BCR would do right for themselves and students to reciprocate. When the goal of the coalition is to get as many students to vote as possible — a cause we can all back — please don’t unintentionally or intentionally make this non-partisan topic partisan.

In order to achieve its goals, Vote Coalition needs to dominate the Internet sphere. A recently enacted state bill enables Californians to fill out their voter registration forms online. With 89 percent of college students owning a Facebook account, according to a Harvard survey, relentless online outreach would do justice for the student population of California.

Cover photos, profile pictures and statuses have already been marked by this campaign, but not yet nearing the magnitude of ASUC election season. Hundreds of students every spring rock photos of friends — or even friends of friends — running for ASUC positions. Semi-personalized emails and phone calls are made to encourage students to vote. This type of fervor needs to start with the coalition, and I trust it will.

People who don’t vote often cite indifference as the driving factor, according to a census poll in 2008, with 13 percent of registered non voters mentioning the factor of “lack of interest” in avoiding the polls. Similar reasoning would most likely apply to those who haven’t registered. The online registration bill bridges the gap of laziness-induced apathy. Let’s take advantage of that bridge. It’s the damn Golden Gate for students.

Contact Noah Ickowitz at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter: @noahickowitz.

SEPTEMBER 28, 2012