ASPSU, Sierra Club run campus voter registration campaign

ASPSU is running its Vote or Vote campaign in partnership with the Sierra Club’s Reenergize the Vote this year.

ASPSU is running its Vote or Vote campaign in partnership with the Sierra Club’s Reenergize the Vote this year. Since Sept. 20, booths around campus have displayed stickers and buttons representing non-partisan voter registration campaigns.

The campaign goal is to reach 3,000 Portland State students by Oct. 12, the national cutoff date for voter registration. As of press time, campaigners had registered 1,150 students.

Reenergize the Vote is working towards Vote or Vote’s goals. Chris Smith, the Reenergize the Vote PSU campus organizer, appreciates the response he’s gotten at PSU.

“Even if we ask [a PSU student] to register five times, they recognize what it takes and appreciate our help,” Smith said.  

This year, the efforts of Vote or Vote and Reenergize the Vote have broader access to the campus than before—including permission to visit dorms and classrooms—thanks, in part, to the efforts of Brittany Duffy-Gochè, the new legislative affairs director at ASPSU.

In an attempt to formalize agreements between PSU’s administration and ASPSU, Duffy-Gochè organized a voter registration committee, the Vote Committee, that’s been in the making for a few months.

The committee wasn’t involved in the planning of this year’s Vote or Vote campaign because PSU’s legal counsel was still reviewing the group for approval, but meetings will commence this term, where committee members—ranging from Residence Life Director Corey Ray to PSU Bookstore President Ken Brown—will debrief the current Vote or Vote campaign.

Duffy-Gochè helped design the Vote committee to assemble administrators for a single collective discussion about the parameters of ASPSU’s access to the campus. The former process of “contacting the power players one at a time” was “wishy-washy,” she said.

That access includes classroom visits called raps. Sophomore Kendra Barnes was sitting down for her first class last Monday when representatives of Vote or Vote and Reenergize the Vote came in. She said it wasn’t an interruption and that it “just kind of worked,” helping her to remember to vote.

“I’ve been meaning to register,” she said when she stopped by the campaigns’ booth last Thursday to fill out registration paperwork.

The voter registration campaigns visit graduate classrooms, too. Professor Barbara Ruben began her Children’s Literature K–5 course yesterday by introducing a representative of Vote or Vote to her students.

“You need to vote,” Ruben told the class. “You need to make your voice heard.”

On the other hand, the campaigns’ dorm storm was met with mixed reviews from students. Sarah Sterling, a PSU junior living at the King Albert, had just finished making dinner with her friend when she heard a knock at the door. Thinking it was her boyfriend, she opened the door to see Zach Brugman, a member of the Oregon Student Association.

“I didn’t think there was a need for him to come to where I live,” Sterling said. “I think it’s good that they’re trying to get people involved, just not at dinnertime.”

Brugman didn’t register many students during the visit because the upperclassman dorms he visited were full of students who were already registered. On the other hand, the freshman dorm storm yielded 50 registrations, according to Brugman.

“I understand that people generally don’t like getting knocks on their doors,” he said. “The reality is, that’s how you organize.”

Ray, a member of the new committee that will help define the parameters of voter registration efforts at PSU, said that none of the dorm dwellers he supervises have complained to him about Vote or Vote or Reenergize the Vote.

“It’s been a positive campaign,” he said. “I’m the one who usually fields complaints, and to date, nobody has contacted me.”

On Thursday, Brugman signed up two students to volunteer with Vote or Vote, instructing them in the basics of carrying a clipboard and approaching pedestrians. However, some students feel harassed by the efforts of volunteer “clipboarders.”

PSU Senior Steve McKinley complains, “There are too many of them.” He says he’s had a few conversations with Vote or Vote and Reenergize the Vote volunteers, and though he respects the message, he would rather be left alone.

“The way Portland is, you can’t walk down the street without someone asking for something, whether it’s to register to vote or for pocket change,” he said.

The momentum of the voter registration campaign is something that members of ASPSU hope to bring to the states capitol in January, when the Oregon University System, currently a part of the State of Oregon, will propose that it become its own entity, according ASPSU President Katie Markey.

Last year, OSA and ASPSU lobbied the Oregon Senate and ensured that tuition at Oregon universities did not hike into the double digits, using the total number of students registered through campaigns—14,000—to speak to the political force of the student population.

This year, Duffy-Gochè hopes to quote a similarly high number to the Oregon Senate.

“A lot of the proposal has to do with who’s setting tuition,” she said. “The language [of the restructuring proposal] is murky…we want to make sure that when it says students get ‘X,’ they get ‘X.'”