CSU, Chico News

California State University, Chico's First Year Experience Program Aims to Engage Young Voters on Campus

Date: 10-07-2016

Sean Murphy,
Public Affairs

Like many university campuses around the nation, California State University, Chico has its share of young adults who have registered to vote, but don’t vote. And many eligible students aren’t registered to vote at all. A program at CSU, Chico is determined to change the trend.

First Year Experience (FYE), a Chico State program that assists new students’ transition to college life, is hosting multiple events on campus in October to create awareness and drive student engagement in the registration and voting processes as the 2016 General Election draws near.

FYE’s weekly “What’s the Issue?” booth presents materials in a nonpartisan manner every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and encourages healthy discourse about the issues.

“This booth reproduces information, primarily from party and candidate websites, about party platform and candidates’ views,” said FYE Director Thia Wolf about the project, which started last spring. “We’re also beginning to share information about some of the many propositions on the California ballot.”

FYE also has scheduled two events on Oct. 24, the final day to register to vote in California. The first is a larger-scale “What’s the Issue?” information booth that will operate from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition, exhibits created by students from CSU, Chico’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) will focus on issues that students feel should be in the public discourse, but may not be.

Later, from 6-8 p.m., multiple campus organizations will come together for “Wildcats Vote!” Other organizations involved in that effort include the Associated Students Government, the Book in Common Program, Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, the Office of Civic Engagement, Student Life and Leadership, University Housing, and the Wildcat Leadership Institute.

“This is a multifaceted voting and advocacy event where students may register to vote, get tips on how to use the California Voter Guide, take part in informal discussions on issues, become part of a ‘Why I want to/plan to vote’ film and participate in a variety of other activities,” said Wolf.

Students will be offered the chance to register to vote online right up until the 11:59:59 p.m. deadline.

“When large segments of a population do not vote, and college voter turnout tends to be low, the results of elections do not represent the will of the people,” said Wolf. “We want to empower all students who are eligible to vote to go to their polling places and cast their votes, and we want to support every student to advocate on behalf of issues and groups that matter to them.”

The number of eligible youth between the ages of 18 and 24 that vote in elections is low, according to a joint news release from the California Secretary of State and the California State University system. Just 52 percent of eligible youth were registered to vote in the 2014 General Election, more than 20 points lower than any other age group, the release said.

Convincing young people to register to vote can be a struggle even when online registration is available, despite that generation’s ubiquitous online presence. According to the same news release, fewer than 8,500 of the 2.8 million students at California’s public colleges and universities registered to vote through an online opportunity provided by their campus in 2014—a mere 0.3 percent of the student body.

For more information about these events, visit the First Year Experience page.