On-campus Polling Place Coming to SF State
New precinct could increase student's political power
January 26, 2004 2:27 PM
Students here will no longer be able to say they don’t know where to vote to excuse themselves from their civic duty.
SF State has become a voting precinct, and there will be a polling place in the J. Paul Leonard Library ready for the March elections.
The administration signed a contract with the San Francisco Department of Elections Friday, Jan. 16, after four years of lobbying by various campus organizations, including the California Faculty Association, Associated Students Inc., San Francisco Urban Institute and the administration.
Supervisor Chris Daly, who supported the effort, attributed the accomplishment to the successful registration drive in the fall that signed up 1,400 people on campus to vote.
SF State has now positioned itself as an important part of San Francisco politics - one that can’t be ignored anymore - now that it has become a voting precinct and earned a polling place on campus, said the organizations that worked on the project.
The action gives students more leverage and makes it easier to mobilize, class representative Chris Jackson said.
“Instead of you going to the candidates, candidates slowly will be coming to you,” he said.
He added that with cuts to the California State University system and financial aid, politicians from San Francisco -- such as Democratic U.S. House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and State Senate president John Burton -- have abandoned the San Francisco student.
“Now we have a foothold in San Francisco politics. We just need to get out the vote,” Jackson said. “District 7 has a conservative supervisor (Tony Hall), but with us as a precinct, he’ll have to do something for us.”
Mitch Turitz, president of SF State’s faculty association, said it’s important for people to get involved politically so that they realize there is a process for getting change done.
“Democracy works. ... We really want to get people started young, because we are getting older,” he said.
With voters behind any issue, anything can be accomplished, said Turitz, who works in the library, the site of the polling place.
“Politics is getting what you want. That’s what it boils down to.”
Brian Murphy, executive director for the Urban Institute, told Supervisor Chris
Daly provided on-the-spot assistance for the ASI members in their quest to go beyond getting the polling place on campus to getting students out to vote. The students had been given the run-around by different city agencies, so Daly offered help to find sponsors to donate materials for a voter raffle.
“Congratulations, but (granting the polling place) is much more of a response to your voter registration drive,” Daly said at the meeting.
The collective effort by the faculty, ASI and the Urban Institute registered a
During the fall elections, ASI -- which tries to motivate voters to increase student power and visibility -- provided maps for students, outlining exactly how to get to their polling places. But the effort proved difficult and didn’t show strong results getting students to the polls, ASI members said.
The convenience of having a polling place on campus, and not a half-mile away, will make a difference in the turnout, Turitz and the ASI representatives said.
Although the chosen location may be a bit distracting to students who are studying at the time, “the library is a major part of the university and is readily accessible to all students at any hour of the day there is classes being held,” Turitz said.
Even if only five percent of registered voters turn out on election day, Chris Jackson said he believed that would enough to start turning heads in city politics.
There is always room to grow, according to Neeta Chowdhry, head of the ASI Lobby Corps.
She calculates that once the new residential halls are built, there will be about 1,800 more potential registered voters on campus. A precinct constitutes between 300 to 800 registered voters, she said, so the next goal will be to add a second precinct to SF State and put polling places in the lobby of each residential hall.
While political humorist Michael Moore and the Rev. Jesse Jackson expressed disappointment during on-campus appearances last fall about SF State not having a polling place, not many university campuses have them, according to ASI.
“Hopefully we are setting a precedent to get polling places in all campuses, so no government can pull crap on us,” Chris Jackson said.
The details are still being ironed out, but the polling place has given a sense of victory to the organizations that have lobbied on behalf of SF State students.
“This will make them stand up and take notice and take time to look in on our efforts,” Chowdhry said.
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