ASUC hosts community political figures to mobilize student voters

Rachael Garner/Staff

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Community political figures gathered Tuesday on Sproul Plaza to speak at an ASUC-organized event aimed at mobilizing student voters in the upcoming midterm election.

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Caitlin Quinn hosted the event, which featured speakers such as State Senator Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

The District 7 City Council candidates — incumbent Councilmember Kriss Worthington and UC Berkeley alumnus Sean Barry — also spoke at the event. Both candidates saw an opportunity to spread awareness regarding their campaign because 86 percent of the district’s residents are student-aged, making it the city’s most heavily student-populated area.

Hancock told students that many ballot measures were “deeply personal issues” that could affect students, who are responsible for tackling the “unique challenges of (their) generation.”

Quinn was motivated in part by an October study conducted by UC Davis’ Center for Regional Change that indicated that only 3.7 percent of voters aged 18 to 24 voted in the recent primary election. Of all primary election voters, this age group was the least represented.

Student voting is also projected to decline in the next 20 years, adding urgency to the need for high school and college voting awareness programs, the study said.

“They have nothing to lose but their own futures,” said Shannon Stimson, a campus political science professor. “(Voting) will change their lives for the next two years.”

Students don’t vote because they believe that a single vote is insignificant, Stimson said.

Yet according to Worthington, having an election with low voter registration puts a greater weight on each individual vote. Voter turnout for midterm elections is especially low in comparison to presidential or gubernatorial elections.

“We’re a very tiny city, and every vote can make a difference,” Worthington said, citing cases in the past where city officials won elections by narrow victories.

Though event turnout was slim, Quinn said she hoped that students passing by would be able to take in what the speakers were saying.

Quinn said students need to understand how the election directly impacts their lives, even if no explicit student issues are on November’s ballot.

“In the East Bay, we’re really lucky to have politicians that either went here or have a lot of staff that went here,” Quinn said, adding that students should be more aware of how they play a part in the community. “Hopefully students see that and don’t take it for granted.”

Other speakers included Alameda County District 5 Supervisor Keith Carson and Rodney Brooks, his chief of staff.

In addition to voting for City Council members, ballots will also allow voters to voice their opinions on contentious issues, such as the debated Measure D, also known as the soda tax. Polls open Nov. 4.

Contact Adrienne Shih at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @adrienneshih.