Residential students at Mills are forced to register to vote absentee because they are not allowed to use the current polling place on campus.
Sophomore Catherine-Mercedes Judge is helping change that with a registration drive held Oct. 17 and 19 and voter education parties to be held Oct. 23 and 26.
Students living on campus, even if they aren’t from California or the Bay Area, can register to vote with their on-campus address. Although Mills is used as a polling place for a separate precinct, the precinct that encompasses the Mills campus itself doesn’t have the required number of residential voters; therefore Mills residential students are forced to vote absentee, according to Leo Fernandez from the Registrar of Voters for Alameda County.
Mills currently has only 150 of the 250 residential student voters needed to get an on campus polling place. “You need to up the registration to make it a voting place. By law, I can’t make it one right now,” Fernandez said. Other colleges with voters registered in the area, such as UC Berkeley, have a polling place for students, according to Fernandez.
Judge is working with Student Activities and the League of Young Voters to register the required 250 residential Mills students in order to create a polling place for students at Mills.
“I was talking to a friend about elections last year and she said a lot of Mills students had to vote absentee. That got me angry because people are less likely to vote absentee than if there is a polling place on-campus,” Judge said. “When people vote, they have to read a lot of legal jargon. I’m going to break it down to simple and unbiased terms.”
Judge hopes to attract Mills students to register to and vote using fun social gatherings like registration or voter education parties. Posting on student-news, Judge has already attempted to attract students to voting in hopes of getting a polling place next year for students. “It’s too late this year, but maybe we can get more voters registered now and we can have a polling place next year,” Judge said.
Despite the lack of timeliness, students such as sophomore Cassandra Tarin have responded with enthusiasm and willingness. “I think it is important to know what you’re doing when you vote and how to read ballots and other information. I’m going to find out how to vote and understand it,” Tarin said.
Since posting on student-news, Judge has attempted to get help from Student Activities with expenses and the effort. “I can’t pay for all of it out of pocket, so funding from the school would help a lot. The money would be going to the education and registration parties for things like food or markers,” Judge said. The rest of the materials, including education materials, would be donated by The League of Young Voters.
Courtney Young-Law, director of Student Activities, is aiding Judge with her initiative and reserving a space for a voter registration drive. “We are also hoping to involve the League of Women Voters. They will provide us with some additional voter guides and other information for voting,” she said.
With only 100 or more voters that need to be registered, Judge encourages residential Mills women to register on campus. For Judge, voting is more than just a chore. “It’s important for women especially to vote because so many people went on hunger strikes and protested and fought to give [women] a voice and to not use it, I think, is disrespectful,” Judge said.