Group to Get Students to Polls

With the presidential election a little over a month away, the New Voter Project, a new student-run organization on campus, aims to register roughly 7,000 UCI students to vote in November. The NVP aspires not only to increase the number of college-age voters at UCI but to also increase political participation and awareness among students on campus.
In an attempt to build a coalition of different organizations and clubs on campus, the NVP has partnered with ASUCI, Young Democrats, College Republicans, CALPIRG and the Volunteer Center. Each club provides their own representatives to work closely with the NVP. These representatives recruit volunteers from their respective clubs.
‘College students are less likely to vote because they don’t feel engaged in the political process,’ said Edgar Dormitorio, NVP advisor and director of the UCI Volunteer Center. ‘It’s our goal to cater to students’ needs and get them out to the polls.’
In the last presidential election, roughly only 35 percent of young adults between the ages 18 and 24 cast ballots.
According to the NVP, students feel disconnected from the political arena and don’t believe their vote will make a difference. Unfortunately, students form such a small portion of voters because politicians and campaigns don’t target the issues of young adults.
‘Even if we increase student voting by 5 percent in any area, we can shift the political focus onto students, and politicians will talk more about tuition, financial aid and student issues,’ said Aaron Thompson, fourth-year history major and project coordinator of the NVP.
Kristi Soliman, a third-year philosophy major and representative from ASUCI, feels that as a coalition, the NVP will be able to impact the students much more than the individual groups of the past.
‘The fact that we can work together makes a huge difference,’ Soliman said. ‘Instead of separate efforts, we can put all our efforts together and get a lot more done.’
Past efforts to register student voters at UCI included ANTVOTE and various campaigns supported by ASUCI. Although both groups worked for the same cause, they didn’t work together, which caused some miscommunication and inefficiency.
In order to register new voters on campus, the NVP has set up registration tables on Ring Road as well as in the Mesa Court and Middle Earth dining commons. They are also holding a Pub Night on Sept. 30 to watch the first presidential debate.
Aside from peer contact on Ring Road, UCI’s NVP will use the Anteater Weekly, UCI’s weekly e-mail newsletter, as well as phone banking and databasing to follow-up, keep track of who’s registered and ensure that UCI’s registered voters make it to the polls on Nov. 2.
Will Tran, a fourth-year ICS major, believes that the NVP will appeal to students.
‘A non-partisan push to get more registered voters would definitely appeal to a lot of people of different political ideologies who care or are starting to care about the November elections,’ Tran said.
However, Terry Huang, a fourth-year criminology major, is skeptical of the project because she believes people should vote on their own free will.
‘People shouldn’t be asked to vote. Those who are going to vote and care about the election will vote on their own,’ Huang said.
The NVP estimates that they have already registered 350 to 400 students during the first few days of Welcome Week.
Although Ralph Nader, current presidential candidate for the Green Party, helped establish CALPIRG, one of the groups involved with the NVP, the NVP remains nonpartisan. The NVP encourages all UCI students to vote, regardless of their political stance, and does not support or endorse particular political parties or candidates.
While California’s electoral votes are expected to go to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, the NVP still reminds students registered as Republican to vote.
‘Even though California isn’t a swing state, it’s still very important for students to vote in this election. The numerous other issues for the November 2 election, including propositions and a senate seat, make voting very important,’ Thompson said.