BernEaters Host Celebrity Event to Increase Student Voter Registration

In an effort to increase UCI’s voter turnout in California’s presidential primary election on June 7, the campus political group BernEaters invited actress Susan Sarandon and other “celebrity surrogates” to Ring Road last Wednesday to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders and register student voters.

Sarandon, along with Heather Matarazzo of “Princess Diaries” and Kendrick Sampson of “How to Get Away With Murder,” spoke with dozens of UCI students throughout the morning about their support for Senator Sanders.

Sarandon emphasized the importance of California’s 548 available delegates in the Democratic primary, especially as Sanders was 773 delegates behind his opponent, Hillary Clinton, as of Saturday.

“I think California is so important for [Sanders’] campaign, because he still stands a chance if there’s a big turnout during the primaries next month,” said Sarandon on Wednesday. “It’s important for young people who are politically motivated to reach out to people, and get people registered to vote.”

Sarandon has long been a Sanders supporters, starting with the Iowa caucus back in February and leading up to the more recent New York primary, in her home state. Campaigning on college campuses is especially important to Sarandon, because she believes that young people can inspire the Democratic Party.

“Young people have the imagination and the spark to make it happen,” said Sarandon. “The Democratic National Convention suffers from a lack of imagination — it was supposed to be a progressive party.”

Olivia Allen, a BernEaters member, sympathized with students who mentioned being too busy to get politically involved, but said that voting is “too important” to pass up.

“It can be challenging, juggling the political realm with being a student, but it really is so important to be politically involved,” said Allen. “I myself am part of two organizations besides BernEaters, so I wish I had more time for politics, but I do as much as I can — boothing with BernEaters, telling people about Bernie, posting on social media.”

Allen encouraged all students to vote according to their personal values, regardless of whether they support Senator Sanders.

“Stick to what your values are,” she said. “Know what rings true to you and find people from the lowest end of the political spectrum to the top whose values resonate with yours.”

According to BernEaters president William Leonard, the booth started as a collaboration between BernEaters and the Asian-American Pacific Islanders Association. Thinking it would be a draw to have celebrities come to campus and encourage student voter registration, Leonard contacted the Sanders campaign directly. Sarandon, Matarazzo and Sampson served as the “surrogates,” who spent the morning taking selfies, passing out pins and answering students’ questions while encouraging students to register to vote, regardless of their political affiliations.

Sarandon stressed the importance of participation and awareness.

“Being political makes you vulnerable…it’s vulnerable to fight,” she said. “But it’s so important.”