Pop quiz: What’s an event with national importance happening in November? If you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking of turkey and mashed potatoes. But if you’re a political science major, you probably said the November elections. It’s true that there’s nothing better than noshing on turkey and lapsing into an epic food coma. Still, even if you’re not a political science major, the elections this year are important — and there are no good reasons not to vote.
But I’m not registered!
Then register! The last day to register to vote is Oct. 20, which means you still have a week left. Registration itself is simple. Are you 18 years old and a citizen? Do you know your full name? Do you live or go to school in California? (You can use your college address as your voting address, by the way.) This isn’t a Monty Python sketch — so if you answered yes to all these questions, you’re pretty much ready for registration.
ASUCR and CALPIRG are partnering to conveniently provide registration forms in the HUB Mall, right between the Scotty’s store and the Bear’s Den. If you consider yourself antisocial and don’t want to talk to other people, you’re in luck — registration forms are easily available at the DMV, the post office and the Riverside Public Library.
Actually, you don’t even have to leave the bed in your dorm room to register, because California lets citizens register to vote online. You’ll need to have your driver’s license or another valid form of identification, but the process takes all of 15 minutes. You can eat Cheetos, stream Netflix and register to vote all at the same time. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. And by everyone, I mean you.
But my vote won’t make a difference!
Why vote if it won’t matter? And in all honesty, the governor’s race isn’t about who will win — it’s about how much Neel Kashkari will resemble Wile E. Coyote being flattened by a boulder (sorry, Republicans). However, Governor Brown is pretty much the only roadrunner in town. There are dozens of statewide and local elections going on at the same time, many of which are supremely competitive.
If you live in the Palm Springs area, Representative Raul Ruiz is running for re-election in a race decided two years ago by 1.7 percent of the district’s population. Back in Riverside, Assemblyman Jose Medina narrowly defeated his primary challenger by less than a percentage point — if he loses, the Democrats’ supermajority goes splat. Running for the state’s Board of Equalization isn’t sexy, but the winners get to stroke their chins and decide what you pay in taxes. It just so happens that Riverside is home to a race that could determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the agency.
In fact, even if the governor’s race is the political equivalent of a cat toying with a mouse before eating it, your vote matters more in this election than when you voted for president in 2012. Why? Less people vote in midterm elections. So you’re not one person in a sea of millions. Instead, in the most local races, you’re casting your vote alongside only a few thousand. UCR is home to 20,000 students. The math is pretty simple.
But I’m too busy!
You’re never too busy to vote! Out of all the United States, California does one of the better jobs providing polling places to its citizens. In fact, there’ll be a polling place right on campus, inside INTS 1109. Okay, I admit maybe it could’ve been placed in an easier location to find. But it does mean you have easy access to the Coffee Bean to reward yourself with the awesome job you did voting.
If you don’t want to leave your blanket fort, then good news on that front too: California has vote-by-mail voting. So instead of you going to the ballot to vote, the ballot goes to you. I would add an “In Soviet Russia,” but then people who wanted to vote in Soviet Russia were summarily executed. Just fill it out, drop it in the mailbox and get back to your pillow fort before pillow forts go mainstream.
But I don’t know enough!
This is the easiest problem to fix — just inform yourself. California mails out an informational guide to all voters in the state, and if you didn’t get one, you can find it online. You can also find out where your polling place is and what your sample ballot looks like by going to the Riverside County Registrar of Voters’ website and inputting your area code (UCR is 92521). Once you have that, you can easily look up the candidates online. Ballotpedia is a particularly helpful resource. Let’s be honest, you weren’t going to spend that time studying anyway.
At the end of the day, voting is something that takes all of 10 minutes if you know what you’re doing when you go to your polling place. You get to express your opinion, engage in participatory democracy — you even get a sticker! And once you’re done voting, I promise the political ads and robo-calls will stop pestering you and let you eat your turkey in peace.