Cal students need to vote in the November election

Katherine Qiu/Staff

I’m a UC Berkeley alumna, and I have a favor to ask of all my fellow Golden Bears — this November, when the voting polls open, be there to take collective action. Be there to vote.

As a UC Berkeley student, you’re either returning to or arriving at one of the finest institutions in the world, known for its cutting-edge science, social activism and inability to be on time to anything. I myself graduated from UC Berkeley in fall 2014 with a degree in society and environment and a minor in public policy. In the years since graduating, I’ve watched so much change in our country — I’ve struggled to wrap my head around a United States whose representation fails to hear my voice and the cries for action coming from my hometown.

On Feb. 14, a shooting took place at my high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. Since then I’ve been trying to figure out how I can contribute to preventing gun violence — an issue I never thought I’d be personally impacted by.

So I ask: Can I count on every Golden Bear to vote? Can I count on UC Berkeley to take action?

This election, and every election, is so important. And yet only 19.9 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds cast a ballot in the 2014 election — the lowest rate of youth turnout in the past 40 years.

We need to change that.

My fellow Golden Bears, I’m asking you all to get active and get engaged this election. I’m asking you all to live up to the history of this campus, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement. I’m asking you to set a precedent for every other university as to what being a model citizen means: being an informed and active voter who is engaged in the happenings of their community.

This year, identify districts that matter most to you and spend time canvassing and phone-banking for candidates and causes you care about. If you don’t know what those are, ask someone and learn. I bet there is a table on Sproul Plaza meant to inform you on how to get involved.

As election day approaches, figure out where your polling station is. If your polling station is far away, question why. Identify ways you think elections can be done more effectively and inclusively, and fight for those changes. Learn about how elections happen in other countries and compare experiences with international students.

The world needs more Golden Bears: individuals who work hard for the common good in whatever way they can contribute. Whether it’s as simple as a letter to your local newspaper to share your perspective or as advanced as a web application designed to amplify the voices of the underserved and underrepresented — I can count on you to get the job done.

Welcome back, Bears! Now get out there and VOTE.

Register to vote here.

Sonya Salimy graduated from UC Berkeley in fall 2014 and earned her master’s degree from the University of Freiburg in 2017.