Only 18 percent of American college students voted in the 2014 midterm election, according to statistics compiled by Institute for Democracy & Higher Education.
To bolster voter turnout, California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla partnered with Long Beach State and other campuses Friday to prioritize voter education and registration on campuses through a competition.
All Cal State Universities, Universities of California, state community colleges and private institutions in the state were invited to join the cause, known as the “Ballot Bowl.” The competition will be divided into three categories: the largest number of students registered, the largest percentage of its student body registered and the most creative approach to registering students.
The contest will formally begin on Aug. 20 and end Oct. 20. The winners will be announced Oct. 30, shortly before the California general election day on Nov. 6.
The election will determine the holders of multiple statewide and county-specific offices, such as state governor and state Senate and Assembly representatives. Numerous ballot initiatives will also be voted on.
The prizes, which were not disclosed, are tentatively scheduled to be given out on Nov. 14.
“The goals for the challenge are to increase student voter registration and to create meaningful experiences that will continue to foster an interest in the election process,” reads a statement on Padilla’s website.
According to Padilla, the desire among students to spread voter education brings great potential for increased registration, but reaching all the students on campus still comes with its challenges.
“For people who have never done it before or maybe come from families where there hasn’t been a lot of voting, it can be pretty intimidating or overwhelming,” Padilla said. “But if you have someone walking you through what it takes, that’s usually empowering.”
Associated Students Inc. President Genesis Jara agreed the most effective way to empower students is through voting.
“We’re striving to register as many students to vote so that in turn, they can go and educate their peers on the importance of voting and that as a whole our university will be civically engaged,” Jara said.
To spread awareness and educate students on issues being voted on, ASI will work with President Jane Close Conoley and faculty to get the word out on campus. LBSU will strategize to remove barriers that are stopping students from registering by having early mail-in days and an expanded time-frame to vote, along with implementing increased tabling on campus and having faculty do teach-ins.
“[We need] more representation for our generation,” said freshmen computer science major David Eaton. “Some of the older people in Congress may not necessarily understand some of the issues that we’re facing, so people from our generation are going to understand [that].”
Conoley said the Ballot Bowl will give students a notion of how voting really affects them, their family and community.
“I don’t care how you vote, I just want you to vote,” Conoley said.