DC Students Speak wraps up voter registration drive in dorms
[Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that DC Student Speak’s voter registration drive ends today. In fact, only the dorm registration efforts end today. We apologize for the error.]
Today marks the final day of efforts by grassroots advocacy group DC Students Speak to register voters in University residence halls, as the group works towards its broader goal of registering at least 1,000 students to vote in the District by November 2012.
The group was founded in November 2009 to give students a greater role in D.C.’s political process and encourage cooperation amongst university students across the district.
According to Scott Stirrett (SFS ’13), a principal organizer of the drive, the lack of students registered in D.C. hinders the student voice in city government.
“There are 100,000 students in DC, but 98 percent of students aren’t registered to vote in D.C.,” he said.
According to ANC Commissioner and drive participant Jake Sticka (COL ’13), lack of student involvement in the district’s political process has contributed to the willingness of D.C. officials to pursue actions which are detrimental to student interests.
“At this moment, we’re seeing so much anti-student rhetoric and so many anti-student actions going on in this city,” Sticka said, citing opposition to Georgetown’s Campus Plan and the newly amended disorderly conduct ordinance.
According to Stirrett, the drive also consists of tabling in Red Square, which will continue after dorm-to-dorm registration ends this week. Stirrett said he reached out to Georgetown University Student Association leadership for senators to assist DCSS in their tabling and canvassing efforts.
ResLife prohibits canvassers from knocking on doors to register students, although participants in the drive are allowed to distribute forms under doors and engage students in public areas.
Andrew Klemperer (SFS ’13), one of the participants in the drive, said many of the students he spoke to showed an interest in registration.
“It’s hard to talk to people [in dorms] just because ResLife doesn’t let us knock on doors, but the people I’ve talked to have been really interested and upportive,” Klemperer said.
Communications Director Alykhan Merali (SFS ’13) says the group has had its greatest success registering students in Red Square.
“When we started our voter registration on Friday, we got 20 people registered on Red Square in just a few hours,” Merali said.
However, drive organizers acknowledge that a registering enough students to create a formidable voting group is an uphill battle.
Stirrett said that at an analogous university such as Columbia University in New York, student participation in local politics is by default higher due to a base of in-state students already registered to vote in elections.
Ricky Garza (SFS’13), another student participating in the drive, added that convincing students to register locally is made more difficult by the lack of full representation for residents of the district at the national level.
“It’s one more thing to object to,” Garza explained. “If we lived in Virginia, we’d have two senators and a representative.”
However, Stirrett and Sticka both state that a compelling case can be made to students that they can wield greater influence over politics in the district than they could in their home states due to the “hyper-local” nature of politics in the city.
“In 1996, a student won an ANC seat by 5 votes over a neighbor incumbent that was very anti-student,” Sticka says. “An apartment of students was able to change the course of that election.”
Sticka and other participants in the drive said they are inspired by the success of Campaign Georgetown, which registered enough students in 1996 to net Georgetown students 2 of 7 seats on the local ANC.
“In the 1990s, over a thousand [students] a year were registering to vote in DC,” he said. “I don’t think that’s true now but I think it could be true again.”
Photo: Julianne Deno