Student organizations are heralding record voting registration among UC Irvine community members with 1,805 voting early and 2,342 voting on Election Day, Nov. 4.
Several campus groups were active on campus leading up to the election to publicize its importance and motivate students to vote.
Christine Dubois Royal, UCI’s California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) campus organizer and a graduate of Scripps College, stated that she has been working for the past few years on the new voters project.
“Basically, we want to register as many students as possible. Two weeks up to the registration deadline, we did everything possible to register as many students as we could at UCI. At one point we had four tables a day,” Royal said.
Overall, CALPIRG registered over 2,200 students at UCI, generously contributing to the grand total of 5,000 students registered at UCI by on-campus organizations. Other student groups involved in raising the registered voter count were Asian Pacific Students, Students for Obama and ASUCI.
CALPIRG also supported Proposition 1A, which was an initiative intended to create a High-Speed Rail system throughout California. Its support comes from one of CALPIRG’s larger goals of increasing public transportation. However, as CALPIRG is a non-partisan organization, it made sure to keep its support of Proposition 1A out of its pre-voting agenda when getting people to vote.
“I was really proud of the work that we did to make sure students were engaged and active. There is so much of a feeling that students could make a difference; we masked that stereotype that students are apathetic. Hopefully we have proven to the rest of the country that we are active and we are paying attention,” Royal said.
ASUCI also put extensive efforts into increasing voter turnout this year, contributing 1,500 voters to the 5,000 total.
Taking a different approach from CALPIRG, they passed out voter registration cards to every on-campus community and sponsored events such as the town hall forums and the Orange County Young Democrats versus Orange County Young Republicans.
ASUCI Executive Vice President Kyle Olney, whose office headed ASUCI’s efforts in voter registration, believes that the UCI administration did the best they could in setting up polling stations.
“I just think there are only so many resources you can get … Every county is subject to not being able to hire as many people as they would have liked,” Olney said.
He also lamented both the housing and administration’s lack of interest in opening up the campus resources to ASUCI.
“Housing has been very resistant to allow[ing] greater access. They don’t want to allow access to their constituents because they think that allowing student government to do this invades personal space,” Olney said. “We don’t have enough money to do consistent events … the [associated students] fee is too low and the prioritization of dollars being spent is too low. If we just had more cooperation on behalf of the administration [we would be] able to see what we’re actually capable of here at UCI.”
Despite this criticism, the level of student involvement in the election excited many campus organizations.
“These numbers of student voters are really unprecedented for UCI. The positive side is that they turned out, and the downside is that the registrar was not expecting that. So many of the polling places were under-prepared,” Royal said.
Some were pleased with the efficiency of the voting areas on campus for Nov. 4. Nicole Bylsma, who graduated from UCI in 2006 with a degree in chemistry, volunteered to help on Election Day and worked the Middle Earth station.
“It was crazy busy. Ridiculously busy. I think we had about a thousand voters between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.,” Bylsma said.
The largest problem, Bylsma stated, was with voters who hadn’t registered for the Middle Earth station, but who were registered in the city and came to vote there.
“It takes more paperwork and they have to sign more things,” Bylsma said.
In turn, this slowed down the flow of voters and added to the lines surrounding the impacted station, which stretched beyond the post boxes lining the Middle Earth Housing Office during its peak hours.
“The station was constantly busy,” Bylsma said. “We all brought books and homework and we didn’t end up doing any of that.”
Kathy Eiler, director of the Advocacy and Government Relations (AGS) office at UCI, collaborated with the UC I Vote coalition to promote early voting for the election. UC I Vote was launched in 2006 and consists of AGS, ASUCI, CALPIRG, the Young Democrats, and the College Republicans, among others. According to data from Katherine Reed of the OC Registrar of Voters, UCI early polling stations reported 1,805 early votes, compared to the 1,977 registered by the city of Irvine.
“I actually think [this election] helped students get motivated and engage in the democratic process,” Eiler said. “There was tremendous turnout and participation. It was wonderful.”
The experience of voting for the UCI community has been varied, with some locations more impacted with voters than others.
“There was no line at 6:45 [p.m.] in the evening,” said Jami Bartlett, associate professor of English, who voted in the Crescent Room of the Student Center. “It was quick and easy.”
Bartlett cited the camaraderie of voting without the hassle. “There was no inconvenience. You got the feel of being in a group of people without the infuriatingly long lines,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett appreciated the smaller turnout at her station and efficient layout.
“I really had time to consider my vote – I really liked it,” Bartlett said.
While some on-campus voters claimed that the voting process was inefficient and disorganized, Angela Chien, a second-year psychology major and Vista del Campo resident, stated that she expected the wait.
“The line was really long and I waited about an hour. There were seven to eight electronic machines but they were only letting in about three people at once,” Chien said. “The reason why the line was so long was because they had both VDC and Norte people at the same location.”
Danielle Moncure, a fourth-year mathematics major, spent her Election Day volunteering at the Bethel Korean Church on the corner of University Drive and Harvard. With both the electronic and paper ballot systems at the church, Moncure said that her polling location was very disorganized. However, she was pleased when she saw the amount of young student voters.
“A majority of the voters were mostly students. About 75 percent of the people who showed up at my polling place were young people like me,” Moncure said.
Another frustration volunteers had to deal with on Election Day was with various solicitors, intimidating voters outside the polling places.
“There were a bunch of No on 8 people outside the polling place harassing people,” Moncure said. “They’re allowed to be within so many yards of the polling place, but we were receiving so many complaints, and we couldn’t do anything about it.”
Overall, Moncure went on to express her satisfaction with this election and her excitement for the future of the nation.
“I really didn’t like either candidate, but I’m happy it was Obama rather than McCain. Now, it is going to be interesting to see [what] our world politics are going to be like,” Moncure said.
Although votes from Nov. 4 have been counted, the office of the registrar of voters is still counting absentee and provisional ballots that arrived just before or on the day of the election. “We have about 300,000 votes left to go, and we legally have until Dec. 2 to count them. We’re required by law to count [each vote],” said Neal Kelley, of the Registrar of Voters for Orange County. “And voters want to know their votes have been counted.”
Due to new state laws enacted in 2007, early voting opportunities in Orange County were reduced from 30 voting sites open for a period of 30 days to 10 voting sites for 20 days. This regulation was created to streamline the transition from early voting to preparing for voting on Election Day, requiring a 10-day gap to move and set up booths and electronic equipment. Kelley explained the benefits of this new approach.
“The efficiency and response is night and day compared to the last election. It was much smoother this time around,” Kelley said.
Unfortunately, state law requires proposition results to be final the night of the election, and the resulting action from passing or not passing a proposition to begin the day after. Simply put, though the yet-to-be-counted ballots will still affect regional elections, they cannot affect the outcome of state propositions. Those votes yet to be counted may have had an effect on the passing or not passing of several close and controversial proposition results.
Proposition 8, which eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry, has been one of the most controversial issues throughout this election. As of the final count, the proposition stands at 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent in favor of the proposition.
Several students involved in UCI’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center (LGBTRC), have expressed their general disappointment and frustration with the outcome.
David Bishop, the Director of the LGBTRC, spoke about the tolls this proposition has had on the students he has encountered.
“People have been very sad and disappointed in the vote [and] that it actually went through,” Bishop said. “To some extent, there has even been mourning.”
However, No on 8 campaign supporters and advocates are still hopeful.
“Speaking as the director, the community is very resilient. Any time a group tries to impose on another group, especially one that is marginalized, it only makes that group stronger,” Bishop said.
Jonathan Wong, President of Student Alliance for Marriage Equality at UCI, also played a significant role in increasing student awareness of key issues prior to the election. He was asked to head the No on 4 and 8 campaigns for the UCI campus and worked to educate voters throughout the months of September, October and November.
“Right now, since it’s more a legal battle, there’s nothing more we can do except for those who can attend some of the No on 8, Equality for All rallies,” Wong explained. “Despite Proposition 8 being on the ballot, I think, unintentionally, it has helped bring a lot of the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community and its allies closer together on campus, especially on political awareness,” Wong said.