In the news

CALPIRG Students
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Santa Cruz Sentinel
By
Jessica M. Pasko

CALPIRG's Kelsey Grimsley, right, helps UC Santa Cruz graduate student Kimberly O'Donnell register online to vote on Tuesday. (Shmuel Thaler/Sentinel) ( Shmuel Thaler )

SANTA CRUZ -- Students with the UC Santa Cruz chapter of California Public Interest Research Group worked Tuesday to register more than 40 new voters as part of National Voter Registration Day.

Tuesday also marked the launch of the Secretary of State's new online voter registration tool for students, californiastudentvote.org. The deadline to register to be able vote in this year's election in California is Oct. 22.

"We've gotten a lot of new voters," Kelsey Grimsley, the chapter chair of UCSC CALPIRG, said Tuesday afternoon. "We've gotten at least 40-50 today and we had 66 Monday."

National Voter Registration Day was launched as a single day of coordinated volunteer, technology and media efforts to spread awareness of voter registration opportunities and get as many voters registered as possible before state deadlines. An estimated 6 million Americans didn't vote in the 2008 election because they didn't know how to register or they missed their state's voter registration deadline, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

At UCSC, Grimsley and other volunteers manned a table on campus from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to not only register voters, but to help provide information on the issues in this year's election and how they affect students.

"It's always important for students to get out to vote, and to get in the habit of it," said Becca Loux, campus organizer for the UCSC CALPIRG chapter. "We want to really make it a part of student lives."

Loux said the group especially wanted to inform students about the various ballot initiatives that could affect them.

"This election is so important and not just the presidential race," Grimsley said. "There are issues of budget cuts, tuition costs and Prop 30, which will basically decide whether colleges have money."

Proposition 30, backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, and also known as the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act, is aimed at stopping $6 billion in school cuts and provide new funding for colleges and schools to hire faculty and purchase new textbooks, among other provisions.

"We had a few students say they were disillusioned and weren't sure if they wanted to register to vote, but we've managed to turn a few of those people around," said Grimsley, a senior majoring in politics.

Loux said she believes a lot of students only hear about the issues involved in the presidential race, and aren't always aware of the other races and election issues.

Statewide, CALPIRG hopes to register 100,000 voters using the new online student voter registration tool. At UCSC, CALPIRG hopes to register 2,500 students themselves and another 1,000 through the campus vote coalition, which includes student government and other campus organizations.

Earlier Tuesday, members of CALPIRG were joined by Santa Cruz County Clerk Gail Pellerin to promote the importance of voting. Pellerin also was working to register voters at the county building Tuesday evening, and the League of Women Voters held voter registration drives at a number of locations throughout the county.

Senior politics major Nidhal Ben-Romdhane said his main focus with CALPIRG has been the organization's democracy campaign, which works to get the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision overturned and help end corporate influence in elections.

"Right now though I'm definitely putting a lot of work in with the new voter project," Ben-Romdhane said.

Follow Sentinel reporter Jessica M. Pasko on Twitter at Twitter.com/jmpasko96

On the Net
To register to vote online, visit californiastudentvote.org