The smell of sizzling tacos wafted through the air, as the sound of Buffalo Springfield’s ‘60s psychedelic rock song “For What It’s Worth” serenaded a crowd of about 40 at Malcolm X Plaza at the annual “Bite the Ballot!” voter registration event, Wednesday afternoon. The event, which continues into Thursday, brought local candidates and proposition campaigners to campus to promote student engagement for election season.
“The youth isn’t really turning out to vote or is civically engaged. We are the future, so it’s important we stay involved and it’s vital to face problematic issues such as race and the environment,” said Celia LoBuono Gonzalez, the organizer of the two-day event and vice president of external affairs at Associated Students, Inc. “It is time to get informed and get educated and this effort will help facilitate getting students informed and form a confident opinion in how they want to vote.”
The event got off to a slow start as students trickled through the plaza and past the tables. According to the event’s Facebook page, only nine people marked themselves as attending the event, out of the 194 that were invited.
Gonzalez said their goal is to get 3,000 students registered to vote –– double the amount they registered last year. To reach this goal, ASI members hit the ground with clipboards to reach more people.
Gonzalez stressed that students need to re-register to vote if they have recently moved.
“A lot of people think it’s okay if you’ve moved, but your vote won’t count if you don’t re-register,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said the event is also a good opportunity for local candidates to hear what students want to say and get engaged with politics and “the policy makers in the community.”
Tim Donnelly, running for District 3 Supervisor, who attended the event to promote his campaign and gauge what city-wide issues students were most concerned with, said that he was most interested in “finding out what students are concerned with in the city.”
When asked what he’ll get most out of participating in the event, Donnelly said, “I’m curious to hear issues, since I share a lot of the same concerns of people who go to school here since I grew up here.”
Dan Kappler, campaigning for Rob Geller, a candidate for the San Francisco Board of Education, said that he hasn’t seen that much student engagement.
“I’m disappointed. I haven’t seen much student engagement, but I have gotten a few glances,” Kappler said. “When I was in college we were all engaged and wanted to fight the system.”
However, when the tacos finished cooking and classes started to let out around noon, the walkways in the plaza filled up with more students and by the next half-hour, there were around 30 to 40 students making their way past the tables and chatting with the candidates.
Robert Kuhl, who just turned 18 and registered to vote, was one of the students making their way through the tables and numerous fliers of candidate and proposition literature.
“This is the first election that I get to vote in, so I want to do my civic duty,” Kuhl said.
Kuhl said he found the event was very helpful in terms of learning about the over 20 different propositions in the City election.
“I learned about stuff that I did not know about and it was really good to hear multiple sides of each proposition. For instance, after all this, I know that I’m probably going to vote ‘no’ on U,” Kuhl said.
After being handed a flier from Kappler about signing up to be a poll worker on Nov. 8, Kuhl became even more enthusiastic and said, “I’m probably going to do that, it sounds like a good opportunity. I haven’t been as engaged as I was in high school, so I think it would be cool.”
To help get other students more participatory in the event and provide an incentive for visiting all of the tables, ASI board members handed out slips of paper to collect candidates and campaigners signatures.
“If students go up to them and get some information and get four signatures of the people they talked to then they’ll get free tacos. It’s a good way to encourage people,” said Nicole Hernandez, one of the ASI representatives.
However, international student, Angela Lin, wasn’t there for the tacos and was more interested in the experience of it all.
“People are so passionate here. I’m from Taiwan and in my country, they are not as passionate. And I am also trying to see what all the different tables are about,” Lin said.
Richie Greenberg, running for District 1 Supervisor, was also at the event to promote his campaign and answer questions students might have. Greenberg said he was glad that he was able to meet students during the event.
“It’s great because this is the first place of contact with students and a great opportunity for students to meet with candidates face-to-face and they get to ask questions instead of reading about us,” Greenberg said.
The second day of the event will focus primarily on the local propositions that are on the ballot and completing the goal of getting 3,000 students registered.
On Oct. 24, ASI will publish statistics on how many students registered to vote during the event, according to Gonzalez.