SF State votes, but not during this election
In 2012, SF State was a polling location for the first time in three years. With a presidential election and Proposition 30 on the ballot, students shattered the University’s student-voter registration goal with 4,060 registered.
This year’s municipal election ballot, however, lacks two items that capture student’s interest: presidential candidates and education-specific props.
“For an election like this there’s going to be low turnout citywide; it’s going to be hard to get anybody really interested unfortunately,” said Jared Giarrusso, associate director of community relations at SF State.
Three of the four San Francisco offices are unopposed, and with no ballot measure that calls out to students directly, the University lowered its sights this year to a 300-person registration goal. About 200 students registered, according to Sonya Soltani, vice president of external affairs for Associated Students, Inc.
“It makes our job easier when students are engaged. It holds our legislatures accountable to issues that affect students,” Giarrusso said.
In 2012, Giarrusso led the department of government and community relations at SF State to link student leadership groups, such as ASI, to University staff and faculty committees like the California Faculty Association.
The relationship, which now operates through the Education Budget Advocacy Committee (EBAC), unified a student-voter registration campaign across campus, and established SF State as a polling place.
Through EBAC, the University built a rapport with the San Francisco Department of Elections, so that SF State and neighboring communities could not only register on campus, but also cast their ballots, Giarrusso said.
“We should have a polling place on campus for every November election going forward,” Giarrusso said.
Soltani, along with ASI, is responsible to get this information on the ground to make voting accessible to students.
SFSU Lobby Corps was introduced to the University to achieve this. It is team dedicated to student engagement in the democratic process at the local, state, and federal levels, especially on issues in higher education.
This year the University included pamphlets and registration forms to all new students as a part of its Welcome Days packets, Giarrusso said.
In addition, SFSU Lobby Corps tabled and handed out fliers on campus during National Voter Registration Day Sept. 24, as a part of its voter-registration campaign, called Why Vote?
Another student group, the College Democrats at SFSU, registered students as well and officially endorsed Proposition A.
“Students need to be aware that the time to start thinking about their future is today,” said Naeemah Charles, president of College Democrats at SFSU. “The main way that students can become prepared for their future is through voting and being aware of what is being voted on.”
Still, the numbers are low.
Currently there are 439,905 people registered to vote in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Department of Elections. The University makes up for .04 percent of the citywide registered population.
“If people are just going to vote on a couple local things, and there’s no big sexy ticket come November, then they’re less likely to vote,” said Nick Lucas, SF State graduate and campaign manager for Proposition A.
Giarrusso’s office was able to tally student-voter numbers last year through registration forms turned in to the University and through the online registration tool that Calpirg, a consumer advocacy group, provided.
According to the department of elections, the average voter turnout for SF State and neighboring communities was 70.7 percent and the numbers paralleled that of the citywide turnout, which was 72.6 percent.
“The trouble with tracking (student voters), is there is nothing on the registration form that distinguishes from students and non-students and…our students don’t live just on campus they live throughout San Francisco, and they live throughout the Bay Area,” Giarrusso said.
Last year, the SF State community boasted .8 percent of the citywide registered voters, about 20 times higher than this year.
“It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s an interesting election in our perspective, it just matters that our voting numbers are up so that people know that students are voting,” Giarrusso said.
The ballot box will be available Nov. 5 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Towers Conference Center on State Drive.