ASSU Talks Voter Registration Drive

The ASSU has released a press release about the results of its voter registration/voting information drive (full disclosure: I participated in the drive in a non-leadership position), the same one criticized earlier on this blog. Here’s what they have to say:

Since the end of September and through October, the ASSU ran a non-partisan voter registration drive with two goals: to encourage local registration and offer increased access to information and deadlines for each state students are voting within.   Students volunteered to go door-to-door within their dorms, giving out voter registration cards for those that wanted to register in California, and collecting information about where people are registered.  The goal of the latter point is to give the option for students to receive an email regarding the deadline to register absentee within the state they are registered as well as instructions on how to apply for an absentee ballot.  The door-to-door strategy was complemented with individual graduate student efforts as well as the BSU/ASSU led drive on October 18th in White Plaza.

The results: around 1000 new registered voters and individualized emails sent out to over 3000 students.

It is important that every student has a voice in the community, and it is our hope that this drive allows for increased civic engagement so that the Stanford community has a voice in the greater political process.

What does this add to the conversation?

First off, numbers. Pretty big ones. 1000 new registrants is impressive for a campus with only 6600 undergraduates (this is assuming that the graduate student efforts mentioned above had little impact, which seems like a reasonable assumption). Given that most students are likely to already be registered, this means that they managed to really reach a sizable portion of campus. The 3000 number is a bit harder to interpret. Since Californians were eligible to be emailed (e.g. if you’re from LA and want to vote on races there) and if we assume that the rate of people who were contacted who chose to opt out of being emailed was low (say 10 percent, which based on my experience with the drive, is a high estimate), then the total number of people contacted would be 3000*1.1 + 1000 = 4300. That’s almost 2/3 of campus, which is pretty solid. I’m personally shocked that almost 1/4 contactees would not be registered (especially considering my experience), but I assume that this number is likely so high because of outreach to freshmen, who are more likely not to have registered. Still, all told, an impressive effort.

There’s no data on partisan affiliation of new voters (nor would we expect such information), but this will probably fuel that conversation a bit further. I’m personally of the view that getting students engaged in thinking about politics is important and worthwhile enough to outweigh partisan concerns, but I understand seeing things from the other side (if we assume that the students who didn’t register on their own are largely not thinking about politics, then you could likewise assume that this registration will do little to change that and will instead simply result in a boost for candidates preferred by their peers, usually liberals). I’m looking forward to seeing that debate continue here.

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