Voters check in before casting ballots at Sac State's Vote Center during the March 2020 primary election. The Vote Center will be open again for the November general election. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)
By Dixie Reid
Californians, including young people, are registering to vote in record numbers ahead of the Tuesday, Nov. 3, presidential election. Statewide, however, people ages 18-24 are the lowest-represented, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Sacramento State is working to support its commitment to the civic engagement of students — most of whom are in that demographic — and this fall launched the campus-wide “Hornets Vote. Hornets Count.” campaign.
“More than ever before, the upcoming general election will have serious and lasting consequences,” University President Robert S. Nelsen said. “I strongly encourage all who are eligible to register by Oct. 19, and then let your voice be heard by casting your vote on or before Election Day.”
Sac State’s efforts this election season build on a history of civic engagement and are getting national attention.
Washington Monthly magazine recently named Sacramento State to its honor roll as one of America’s best colleges for student voting. Sac State also scored in the highest category in the recent ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, which empowers colleges and universities to achieve excellence in student democratic engagement.
And, two Campus Compact Community Engagement student fellows, Giselda Camacho and Janet Gil Magana, were semifinalists in Civic Life’s Democracy 2020 Youth Film Challenge. Their video, “A Threat to Our Democracy,” addressed voting rights and voter suppression.
Sac State also is competing in the California University and College Ballot Bowl, sponsored by the Secretary of State’s Office to improve civic engagement. As of this week, Sac State is third in number of students registered. The competition continues through Election Day, Nov. 3. In 2018, the University was the top CSU in the Ballot Bowl for creativity in getting students to vote in the November statewide election.
Among the upcoming events scheduled for the “Hornets Vote. Hornets Count.” campaign:
- California Student Voting Summit 2020, noon-5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18: A free, virtual event hosted by the Community Engagement Center (CEC). Sessions will include best practices in civic engagement, digital organizing, racism in voter engagement, and action planning.
- Sac State Votes: Voter Registration Drive, 46 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22: CEC and Sacramento Area Congregations Together host a phone/text phone bank aimed at students.
- Voting 101 Webinar, 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1: Associated Students I (ASI) and Sacramento County Elections Division offer an overview of the Voter’s Choice Act, how to vote by mail in California, and the safety of voting by mail.
- Civic Engagement Week, Oct. 5-9: Activities include the Civic Engagement Resource Fair on Monday, Oct. 6, and a virtual appearance by legendary labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta on Friday, Oct. 9, presented by the Serna Center.
- #WhyHornetsVote panel, 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15: Sac State students talk about why voting is important to them and it’s important to encourage others to vote. Presented by ASI in collaboration with Strategic Student Support Programs, Full Circle Project and the MLK Center.
- Vote Early Party, 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24: Celebrate voting early or ask any questions about getting your ballot counted. Activities will include a KSSU DJ, games and prizes. Presented by ASI and the Residence Hall Association.
“While there are substantially fewer students on campus this fall, we want to ensure that students and the community can continue to make their voices heard,” said Nathan Dietrich, associate vice president for Public Affairs and Advocacy.
“Sacramento State remains absolutely committed to encouraging students to register to vote and supporting them in voting. It’s important to provide them with voting options,” he said.
Sac State in 2018 was the first CSU to host a county Vote Center on campus. Modoc Hall will once again serve as a polling place for the 2020 general election and will be open for three days before and on Nov. 3, Election Day.
Sacramento was one of five California counties to pioneer the 2016 Voter’s Choice Act for the 2018 midterm elections. It’s a model that replaces traditional polling places with Vote Centers.
The Vote Center is operated by Sacramento County’s Department of Voter Registration and Elections. It will serve as a central location for registered voters on campus and in the community to vote in person or to drop off mail-in ballots.
People who miss the voter-registration deadline of Monday, Oct. 19, can complete the process in person and cast their ballot the same day at the Modoc Hall Vote Center.
Vote Center hours are 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, Sunday, Nov. 1, and Monday, Nov. 2; and 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3. Physical distancing and other safety protocols will be in place.
In 2018, Sac State students — many voting for the first time — patiently waited outside Modoc Hall up to three hours.
“Millennials are interested in having an experience,” said Marisa Warnock, CEC’s volunteer and program specialist. “The pandemic has robbed them of going to the polls, which was very popular with the Vote Center. They engaged each other and discussed the issues while they waited. I think they will miss that camaraderie.
“We fear, because of the coronavirus, that students will put off mailing their ballot in lieu of going to the polls, which is more dangerous to their health.”
Voting by mail isn’t new in California, but to help keep citizens safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, ballots will be mailed to all active, registered voters starting Monday, Oct. 5. Return postage is included.
Students also can drop off ballots at the Vote Center or place them into an official ballot drop box at The WELL’s front desk during regular business hours between Oct. 6 and Nov. 3
“We believe that the voter registration drive, drop box location, and Vote Center efforts — when combined with the voting engagement activities planned by the Community Engagement Center and others on campus — will continue to resonate with students and increase turnout,” Dietrich said.
Increasing student participation in the 2020 general election and in Census 2020, which has a Wednesday, Sept. 30, deadline, are two goals of the Community Engagement Center.
“The driving force behind this work is social justice,” said Ann Moylan, the CEC’s new director. “It looks at how the campus doesn’t operate in a silo but is connected to the community around us. Whether it’s the election or the U.S. census, we reach out to underrepresented communities to make sure that they’re included.”