Associated Students (AS) Statewide Issues Senator Patrick Maloney had a challenge ahead of him this semester. He and other student government officers have been working to ignite student interest in voting, educating students about the issues pertaining to the upcoming election.
"Some of the challenges AS face are getting enough student interest during our tabling hours and an effort on behalf of the students to utilize us as a resource for their voter registration and educational needs," Maloney said. "We try to tell them how certain ballot measures on this specific ballot will directly effect them and have little to do with partisan politics or particular candidates." Through these efforts, 758 SSU students have been registered, and that number continues to increase as the election grows near. His ultimate goal is 1,000 new voters.
According to the Pew Research Center, young voters are significantly less engaged in this year's election compared to the election in 2008. "Only half (50%) of adults under 30 say that they are absolutely certain that they are registered. This compares with 61% in 2008 and 57% in 2004."
AS Executive Vice-President Anthony Gallino said that one of the challenges he has faced during tabling is that students have incredibly busy schedules. When students have so many other things to do, stopping to register takes time away from those things. While AS classroom presentations have helped with this, students' demanding schedules still present a challenge.
One method AS has used to reach students is through Prop. 30. "I have had students become newly enthusiastic about voting after hearing about Prop. 30's possible effects," Maloney said. "Prop. 30 specifically means the difference between a reimbursement check and a $150/semester tuition increase." Under this proposition, the money raised for schools is directed into a dedicated fund for public schools that the legislature cannot touch.
A Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement survey found that "57 percent of non-college youth were unsure about early voting laws compared with 48 percent of those with some college experience." Trends like this demonstrate a need for college voters to be informed. AS is trying to bridge this gap by continuing voter registration efforts and education. The deadline to register is on Oct. 22 and students can conveniently register to vote online through the AS website.
Residential Life has been assisting in the voter registration effort as well, supporting AS programs, asking students to register to vote in building meetings and community programs.
Gallino said, "it's incredibly important to me that people take the time out of their busy, hard working, schedules to not only fill out a voter registration card, but to vote."
Gallino believes that the importance of having students vote is three-fold, "first, because we have a civic duty as citizens to vote, second, because we are one of the least thought of constituencies in politics today, and third, because there is so much at stake for education in California."
To register to vote or learn more about AS, visit www.sonoma.edu/as/
Noon to 1 p.m., Oct. 16 - "Meet the Candidates" Students meet local candidates. Darwin Quad.
Noon, Oct. 25 - Proposition 30 rally. Stevenson Quad.
6-10 p.m., Nov. 6 - Election Night: Students are invited to watch the election results unfold in the Student Union. Free food and political debate.
Noon-1 p.m., Nov, 7 - Post election Wrap-up: Professor David McCuan moderates a panel of distinguished Sonoma County politicos including Dr. Ruben Armiñana, SSU President; Paul Gullixson and Jim Sweeney, Press Democrat; and Gabe Meline, The Bohemian.
Above: Patrtick Maloney, SSU Student Senator, greets Janice Atkinson, Sonoma County Registrar of Voters, at a recent It Matters! kickoff event.