Yesenia Garcia, a freshman politics major, celebrated two significant milestones last August. The first: moving into her dorm. The second: registering as a California voter. She recalled the experience in a casual tone. “I was just waiting in line for my ID anyway, so why not register to vote?”
Garcia is one of the 1,010 students since the beginning of the 2017-2018 academic year who registered to vote through USF Votes, a student-run initiative through the McCarthy Center that aims to increase students’ civic engagement.
Abree Dominquez, a senior media studies major, and Kiana Martinez, a senior double-majoring in critical diversity studies and sociology, are spearheading the initiative with the help of 15 student volunteers. Their main platform is through tabling at major campus events such as orientations and club rushes. “It’s amazing work, but it’s a lot of effort and a lot of grassroots stuff. It is a big commitment,” Dominquez said. “We are really fortunate because a lot of administrators are helping us out. They have been over-the-top at making everything happen for us.”
The voting drive began when Angeline Vuong, program manager of Community-Engaged Learning for the McCarthy Center, started a partnership between USF and The Andrew Goodman Foundation. Vuong said, “In 2012 the voting rates of students at USF was 48.6 percent which is pretty average — two percentage points above the national average. We thought that’s a little bit low, especially for a school that values social justice and civic engagement.”
Andrew Goodman was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan after joining Freedom Summer, a 1964 voting registration campaign aimed towards African American voters. His brother sought justice by establishing the foundation in Goodman’s honor to engage young people in our democracy. Their goal is to make processes of registering, changing voting addresses and getting to the polls simple tasks.
Turbovote.org is a tool utilized by USF Votes to both register students and track numbers of student registrations. Due to California’s progressive laws on registration, students are able to do so online. Turbovote.org provides the option of signing up for notifications such as election date reminders and polling locations. “It’s really user friendly,” Dominguez said. “You’re not going to be on the site for 20 minutes trying to figure it out. You’re going to be on there and know exactly what to do.”
The campaign hopes to reach 2,000 registered students by May. With the gubernatorial (California state governor) primaries and San Francisco mayoral elections approaching in the summer, USF Votes is working with the McCarthy Center to inform and excite students about participating in these elections. “You want representatives to reflect who you are. You want representatives who value what you value and take your concerns seriously. I don’t think we have that,” said Vuong. The McCarthy Center and Politico are co-hosting on-campus conversations with candidates running for state governor. Their last two conversations are on March 1 and March 22.