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

11 Comments on “DC Students Speak wraps up voter registration drive in dorms

  1. I’m pretty sure I said “two senators and a representative”.

  2. @Chris Heller

    DC Students Speak is not wrapping up its voter registration drive, we are just beginning. The process to register students is currently ongoing.

  3. Students can make a difference. While the anti-student activists are quite vocal, their numbers are not very large. After nine months of attacking the GU Campus Plan, they have fewer than 200 signatures on their (misleading) petition. Students can surpass that number easily and become a powerful voting block.

    Historically, anti-student positions have not led to successful city-wide campaigns. In the past, politicians John Ray and Charlene Drew Jarvis tried to use student-bashing to gain votes; perhaps they won some support in Burleith, but they went down to crushing defeats in their respective runs for mayor and City Council chair.

    In 1994, Jim Nathanson bashed GU during his campaign to retain his Ward 3 seat. It backfired and he lost to then-newcomer Kathy Patterson. Now it appears that Mary Cheh is making the same mistake, alienating reasonable voters to appeal to a small group of extremists.

  4. @Alykhan

    I was told that tabling and dorm-storming efforts for this registration drive are ending today. To quote Scott’s announcement and the DCSS email that was sent to students:

    \On Wednesday, March 16 and from Monday, March 21 through Thursday, March 24 DC Students Speak, a nonpartisan student organization, will be conducting a voter registration drive in the residence halls and apartments from 8 pm to 10 pm.\

  5. Right, voter registration in residence halls does end today but the voter registration drive itself is ongoing.

  6. @ Alykhan Marali

    Thanks for the clarification. I’ll adjust the post to reflect the on-going drive.

  7. Solid work. Campaign Georgetown did it. It can be done again.

  8. can someone from this campaign explain how registering to vote in dc may affect your tax status? i was under the impression that voting in dc can jeopardize your non-resident status, which means that you’d have to pay DC taxes instead of taxes in your home state — which are often quite lower.

    and does registering to vote in dc mean that you can’t vote in your home state?

  9. Pingback: Vox Populi » DC Council at-large election tomorrow

  10. Pingback: Vox Populi » Prefrosh Preview: Off-campus news you can use

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