It is imperative that students exercise the right to vote by showing up to polls Nov. 6

Beini Liu/Staff

For the past month, I’ve spent a couple of hours each week registering voters on Sproul Plaza. Every Friday I step inside the busy crowd of people headed to and from class and ask them politely if they’ve registered to vote. If I get a response, it’s most likely, “I’m busy,” “I’ll do it later” or “No, thanks.” Many people simply say nothing. A decent number smile and then quickly look away.

Despite facing constant rejection, I remain optimistic. I consider that maybe most students are already registered to vote, or I’m possibly targeting the wrong groups.

The research, however, doesn’t make me feel any better.

Young adult voting in California is in a dismal state. In the last midterm election, people ages 18 to 24 in California were registered to vote at the lowest rate of any eligible age group. All other age groups were registered to vote at a 20 percent higher rate at minimum. Only 8.2 percent of eligible California young adults turned out to vote, while young adults constituted only 3.9 percent of those who voted.

I will respect anyone (well, most people) for whatever belief they have. My problem lies with whether people are willing to make tangible, real change or not. Everyone has strong opinions. Few actually act upon them. Berkeley is the mecca of people committing to making a difference and then sitting at home and doing absolutely nothing. People love to say they can when they actually don’t.

The stakes are high for these midterm elections. Yes, even in California. With a wide sweep of candidates, ballot initiatives and important federal, local and state battles, the choices we face in this election will have significant effects for every resident of the state — especially for young people.

One major issue is housing, with four of the 11 statewide ballot propositions addressing the issue. The astronomically high cost of housing in California plagues young people. Alongside ever-mounting student loans, stagnant entry-level wages and widening income inequality, the struggle for working young people and college graduates to find affordable housing anywhere in the state has become grim. As UC Berkeley students, we understand this best. By voting this November, we can mitigate the extraordinary housing burdens we as young people stand to face.

Proposition 1 authorizes the state to issue $4 billion in bonds for housing-related programs, loans and grants. Proposition 2 will appropriate money from existing county mental health funds to finance housing for those who have mental health illness and are homeless. Proposition 10 will allow for local governments to set price ceilings on rental housing, preventing apartment costs from rising out of control. For an issue so undeniably important to young Californians, it is remarkable how much influence we can exert on housing come this November. By voting for each proposition, we can ease the aggressive costliness of housing and find options that better fit our budgets. Conversely, sitting this election out directly puts our ability to live affordably at risk.

We can also have a strong effect on housing issues at the local level. The General Obligation Bond for Affordable Housing, or Measure O, will allow the city to issue $135 million in bonds to create and preserve affordable housing. Measure P, the Transfer Tax Measure, will increase the real property transfer tax over the next 10 years to establish the Homeless Services Panel of Experts. This panel will make recommendations on resources and services to better serve the city’s homeless population. City Council candidate Rigel Robinson has pledged to fight for student housing at the institutional level, advocating for denser and taller housing around campus.

With stakes this high, it makes sense that we should be invested in the November election. When you’re sick, you go to the doctor. When you live in a state that continues to impose high barriers on the ability of its young people to afford an education, achieve financial security and live even somewhat comfortably, you vote to change all those things. Yet here we are.

I understand why young people are so apathetic. Clearly, our institutions are deeply flawed. But rejecting them makes them even more dysfunctional. And when we don’t participate, legislators prioritize the views of those who do, governing solely for the Baby Boomers and members of Generation X who actually turn out to vote.

I’m voting in November because I have to. Sitting this election out means leaving my future in the hands of those who won’t even be alive to see it. I want to live a happy life. I want an income I can support myself on, a home I can afford to live in and the freedom to make the choices I want. I’m tired of letting the old and out-of-touch determine how I should live my life or what my values should be.

The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 22. Election day is Nov. 6. You can register to vote online at It takes five minutes.

I’ll be at the ballot box Nov. 6. I hope to see you there.

Jeremy Saraie is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley. This semester, he is working with the ASUC Vote Coalition to get out the vote.