Although voter registration numbers were below average this year due to a decreased interest in midterm elections, the Voter Registration Volunteer Coalition (VRVC) went to great efforts to uphold UCSB’s title as the leading college campus in student voter registration.
The deadline to register to vote in the upcoming June 5 election was May 21. In the week before the deadline, VRVC tabled in front of the library and dining halls, as well as went door-to-door in residence halls in order to register as many students as possible.
Each year, VCRV recruits volunteers to register eligible voters, encouraging organizations and individuals to foster civic engagement.
Office of Student Life Assistant Director Viviana Marsano, who is in charge of coordinating volunteers, told The Bottom Line, “We recruit across campus — we have Campus Dems, we have College Republicans — so we don’t know the affiliation but we make it very clear that it’s nonpartisan. And our only purpose is to go out and register.”
The coalition kicks off its efforts each year during fall quarter move-in weekend, when volunteers go to every residence hall and register students at floor meetings. Throughout the course of the year, they visit houses and apartments in Isla Vista and speak during fraternity and sorority meetings in an effort to reach out to more students.
Its year-long efforts culminate in a week-long registration drive where volunteers approach students around campus, registering those who eluded them earlier in the year or have since changed addresses.
Most years, the coalition registers around 13,000 students. This year, Marsano estimates the number to be closer to five or six thousand, although the final count has yet to be tallied. “Generally, when it’s not a big election year,” Marsano said, “the numbers tend to be lower.”
This year’s California ballot will feature candidates for federal and state legislature, governor, and other statewide offices, as well as various local and statewide propositions. Students can check their voter registration status on the California Secretary of State website and find out where to vote at the Division of Student Affairs. Several residence halls will have polling stations.
For the past decade, UCSB has led the nation as the college with the most students registered to vote. “UCSB in general is a campus with students who are very informed, students who are involved, [and] some students who are involved with many organizations,” Marsano said. “[The accomplishment] speaks very well of us.”
Student engagement in the democratic process is essential, according to Marsano. “We live in a place where people make decisions for us, and although we vote for people thinking they are going to act a certain way, sometimes they don’t. [Voting] is your way of expressing your satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a candidate, or a particular party. It’s the one way citizens can express their opinions about how our policies should be done, and the laws and initiatives.”
Those who missed the registration deadline still have a chance to cast a vote thanks to new Same Day Voter Registration law. Unregistered voters can visit the county election office to register and seal their ballot before June 5.