October 25, 2012Vol. 43, Issue 2

AS and Other Campus Organizations Join National Effort to Register New Voters

For the past month and continuing up until Election Day on Nov. 6, Associated Students has been actively working to register new voters on campus and encouraging them to get out to the polls. The AS joined forces with University Housing and Food Services, the Office of Civic Engagement, Chico State Democrats, Chico State Republicans, Pi Sigma Alpha, California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), and the Gender & Sexual Equality Center (GSEC) to put on events to educate and motivate students.

“It’s one thing to register students and community members to vote, but it’s another thing to educate them once they have registered,” says Nicole McAllister, director of AS Legislative Affairs.

The most successful event on campus so far has been tabling with the Office of Civic Engagement. In less than one week of tabling in Tehama Hall, volunteers registered 172 new voters. Unlike party-affiliated tables seen on campus, these tables offer nonpartisan voter information booklets. (Pictured left: Oona Wellin, Office of Civic Engagement, provides voter registration information to unregistered student.)

CALPIRG created a special online voter registration tool available to CSU, Chico students and community members. This online application is an easy, paperless, and secure way to register new voters.

Aside from new voter registration, there were many more educational events for students before Election Day, including the screening of the film Iron Jawed Angels, put on by GSEC. The film focuses on the American women’s suffrage movement during the 1910s. GSEC intent is to inspire men and women alike by screening this film, showing the long road that has been traveled in this country to achieve equality in the voting booth.

“Hopefully, it inspires attendees to not only register to vote, but to actually go out on Nov. 6 and vote,” says McAllister.

On Oct. 22, the last day to register to vote, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen came to campus to talk about civic engagement and voting. The Chico State Democrats and Chico State Republicans were present for last-minute voter registration.

University Housing and Food Services hosted a couple of events in the residence halls as well. “Dorm Storm” was held at the October wing meeting in each hall, in which resident advisors brought their laptops to register new voters. “Trick or Vote” was held around Halloween—members of AS went around to each hall and offered voter information and candy to residents.

On Nov. 5, the eve of the election, there will be a debate between students from both the Democrat and Republican club: “Are You an Informed Voter?”

“The aim isn’t to put down the other side, but to present as much information as possible to get people educated—a last big hurrah before Election Day,” says McAllister. Many ballot measures will be discussed at the debate, many of which affect students. “This time around, Proposition 30 [a sales tax and income tax increase initiative that will go directly to public schools and colleges] is on the ballot, and that’s extremely important to students and student interests,” she adds.

If Proposition 30, the Schools and Public Safety Protection Act, does not pass, another $6 billion will be cut from public schools and colleges. The CSU alone could face up to $250 million in cuts. The CSU Board of Trustees met in early October and approved a contingency plan in the event that Proposition 30 does not pass, which includes a 5 percent tuition hike to CSU students.

Although the AS must remain neutral and cannot tell people how to vote, part of its responsibility to students is to inform them of propositions and issues that directly affect their welfare. Proposition 30 is one of those important ballot measures. “We are informing students about Prop. 30, as it’s something that students ought to be aware of and get as much information about as possible,” says McAllister.

Keeping students informed and active in political affairs will not stop after Election Day. McAllister plans to make sure students know how to make their voices heard. Later on in the academic year, McAllister wants to take groups of students to lobby at the state Capitol, so they can experience what it is like to speak directly to legislators.

“In my opinion, in a democracy, the most important tool a citizen has is his or her voice. And the best way to utilize your voice is through your vote,” says McAllister. “I think a lot of times students don’t really grasp that, they feel lost in the realm of democracy, and I want to try and change that. I truly feel that as students we have an unrecognized power in government—we have political voices.”

—Cassandra Jones, Public Affairs and Publications

—Photography by Cassandra Jones