University prioritizes student voter engagements in upcoming elections

As the Oct. 20 deadline to register for the general election approaches, SF State officials and students are focusing on campus political engagement.

In an effort to get students involved in this year’s Nov. 4 election, the University launched a summer partnership with TurboVote, an online platform that assists users registering to vote and informs them of upcoming elections in hopes of increasing voter turnout.

History major Joseph Scimonelli registers to vote at the campus government and community relations table Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. The event was intended to encourage students who have not yet registered to participate in the November election. Helen Tinna / Xpress.

History major Joseph Scimonelli registers to vote at the campus government and community relations table Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. The event was intended to encourage students who have not yet registered to participate in the November election. Helen Tinna / Xpress.

Adrienne Lever, the senior director of partnership for TurboVote, described the project as a “voter engagement tool” that is appropriate for students in an age where the internet is the preferred method of communication. Lever said the company works closely with universities trying to amass greater student votes.

Core-campus voter turnout, which includes SF State’s dormitories, rose to 74.53 percent in 2012 from 63 percent in 2008. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning said 87 percent of all 18 to 24-year-old college students who were registered voted in the 2008 elections, according to the Department of Elections

“We wanted to harness technology to get the 21st century citizen involved,” Lever said. “We always like to see voter registration integrate with the academic process.”

Associate Director for Community Relations Jared Giarrusso said the University’s utilization of the site’s resources would fulfill its duty to create an informed public and increase the number of registered voters that leads to higher turnouts.

“The hope is that through education they learn to be engaged citizens,” Giarrusso said. “It’s the university’s responsibility to create engaged citizens in their community.”

The “Rock the Vote” foundation also took steps to engage young voters across the country by appointing rap artist Lil Jon as the official spokesperson for the #TurnOutForWhat campaign, which addresses important issues in the upcoming election.

Offline, students are finding other ways to mobilize SF State’s participation in this year’s elections. Mark Anderson of the non-partisan student organization Students Vote! at SFSU said his group plans to hold educational meetings on this year’s ballot items and a vote for them would signify.

“We have tentative plans to host discussion panels about voting and about issues surrounding elections, which may eventually include candidate forums,” Anderson said. “We plan to reach out to other clubs with interests in the voting process to make our events more encompassing.”

Associate professor of political science Martin Carcieri urges students to be politically active. With a background in constitutional law, Carcieri stressed the importance of voting because others are not fortunate enough to do so.

“So many people in the world have not had free governance and the privilege to vote,” Carcieri said. “Let us exercise this liberty.”

Sociology and dance major Stephen Keshi registered to vote Oct. 13 during the SFSU Turns Out the Vote event at Malcolm X Plaza, and said the democratic process gives students the opportunity to make a difference.

“I think it matters because we’re the people,” Keshi said. “We have the power to make things better. If you want to change the future, you have to sit down and do the work.”

Vice President of External Affairs for Associated Students Inc. Naeemah Charles said ASI members are considering arranging classroom visits and cooperating with Residential Life programs in order to increase student voter registration.

Charles said student voices matter, and urged them to vote on important propositions like the tax on sugar bond Measure E and the proposed minimum wage increase Measure J.

Charles said ASI members will try to maintain a presence on Malcolm X Plaza until Nov. 4 to garner student awareness.

“There’s a lot of important decisions being made without student input,” said Charles. “It’s really important to the University and ASI to know that students are using their political voice.”

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