‘Your vote is your voice’: Berkeley community gears up for midterm election

Rachael Garner/File

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Tuesday’s midterm election will draw Berkeley residents, students and staff to polling stations to decide the fate of measures, propositions and representative seats on local, state and national levels.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín was on campus Monday to attend a “Get out the vote” event, at which he encouraged students — who make up about 30 percent of Berkeley residents — to vote. He said the student vote was a large factor leading to the 2012 citywide defeat of Measure S, which would have “criminalized” homelessness in Berkeley if passed.

“Students really are the margin of difference in a lot of local races,” Arreguín said. “Making sure that the student voice is heard locally is really important because they’re an important part of our community.”

For Tuesday’s election, he said he hopes students will support Measures O and P — two measures on the midterm ballot that would address Berkeley’s homelessness and housing crises. Measure O, if approved by voters, would open up $135 million that the city could use to create additional affordable housing. Measure P, if approved by voters, would increase taxes on the top third of property transfers and use the generated money to fund homeless services, such as the Pathways Program.

Voters will also determine representation on the Berkeley City Council for Districts 1, 4, 7 and 8. District 7 candidate Aidan Hill was present on campus Monday and said voters have more power in local elections than national elections.

Assistant to the mayor Stefan Elgstrand also advocated for Measures O and P on campus Monday. He emphasized the importance of all Berkeley residents’ votes this time around, citing the 2014 midterm election’s low voter turnout.

“This midterms is different, considering the political climate that we’re in,” Elgstrand said. “People are very mobilized and wanting to make a difference. … Your vote is your voice.”

UC Berkeley student organizations on both ends of the political spectrum have encouraged efficacy and voter turnout in this election.

Cal Berkeley Democrats member and campus freshman Samantha Warren said that despite the fact that voting for the president is “a big deal,” the midterms are equally important. Because the congressional majorities are potentially up for grabs, Warren said she is paying attention to Senate and House of Representatives races because the party with the majority has “all the power.”

Turning Point USA chapter president and campus senior Ava See said her organization has been engaged in an effort to encourage all students, but particularly conservative students, to vote this semester. She said Turning Point USA is trying to provide the campus with “more than just the left point of view” and to encourage more conservative students to speak out since the political right is “more at risk” on a liberal campus.

“For everybody in this time, regardless of who you are, it’s such a privilege to vote,” See said. “It was only like 100 years ago that women got the right to vote.”

Contested local seats include positions on Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board and Berkeley Unified School District Board, as well as the positions of city auditor and county assessor. California voters will also have the opportunity to vote for 11 statewide positions, ranging from the office of the governor to the state superintendent of public instruction. On a national level, voters will decide who will represent California’s 13th Congressional District and who will represent the state as a whole in the U.S. Senate.

The third floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building will serve as a polling place on campus Tuesday. A new mail-in ballot drop box serving Alameda County voters also sits outside Sproul Hall.

Contact Rachel Barber at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @rachelbarber_.