Students vote on campus

This story was updated on Oct. 2 to correct the details of Jordan Grant’s death, and to show that the Grant family donated funds for ASI’s voter outreach initiatives. 

Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) is gearing up for its annual voter registration campaign, Flex Your Right, an initiative focused on helping Cal Poly students prepare to vote before the upcoming election this fall. 

In collaboration with ASI Events, ASI Flex Your Right campaign will hold a virtual voter education week from Oct. 13 to 16, which will include a Flex Your Right Trivia night, educational videos and a conversation about civic engagement with Shereen Marisol Meraji, co-host and producer of the NPR podcast Code Switch.

ASI Secretary of Student Rights Bryanna Gay and ASI President Shayna Lynch are leading the campaign.

Due to current social distancing protocols, the entire campaign will be done virtually this year. ASI will promote the campaign through Instagram posts and videos, providing students with an easy access link to pre-register or register to vote.

To aid the campaign, ASI is in the midst of forming street teams, which are student groups who will be trained in registering voters and assist students in the voter registration process.

“We [street teams] will be doing presentations on how to register to vote, why you should register to vote and what to do after you register to vote,” Gay said. 

ASI’s Flex Your Right campaign is in direct correlation with the annual Ballot Bowl put on by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

The California Ballot Bowl partners with California colleges to help register students to vote. In 2018, 45 universities registered more than 10,000 students to vote, according official Ballot Bowl website.

In 2018, Cal Poly won the Ballot Bowl, beating out every other private and public institution in the state by registering more than 3,000 students to vote, according to 2018 Mustang News article.

When using the voter registration links ASI provides, Gay encourages students to select Cal Poly as their school in order for their registration to be counted towards Cal Poly’s total in the Ballot Bowl.

Due to the current debate around vote-by-mail ballots and the possible unreliability of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) come this November’s presidential election, Gay strongly suggested that if students plan to vote by mail, they should vote early.

In California, mail-in-ballots must be postmarked on or prior to Election Day and received no later than 17 days past Election Day to be counted, according to the California Secretary of State website. However, mailing in a ballot early allows the USPS more time to process the absentee ballot and helps ensure the vote gets counted, Gay said.

Before election day, Gay urged students to take some time to find their appropriate polling place, confirm their voter registration status and learn how to properly mail in their ballot. All this information and more can be found on ASI’s voter registration and civic engagement website.

Gay also said students should research proposed legislation prior to voting to become well-prepared and well-educated voters.

“I would also recommend looking at all the legislation that’s going to be on our ballot in November,” Gay said. “Make sure that you are up to date on that so that you can be an educated voter.”

This year’s Flex Your Right event is dedicated to Jordan Grant and his legacy. Grant was killed while driving on Highway 101, when an SUV turning on El Campo Road hit his motorcycle, Mustang news reported. 

Grant’s family fought to restrict left-hand turns at El Campo Road, where he died, to prevent further accidents, and the left-hand turn was closed down on May 23, 2019. 

Grant was excited for his first voting opportunity, but died before he had the chance to vote. His parents chose to honor his legacy by encouraging other students to register and vote.

ASI spent nearly $16,000 from the funds donated by the Grant family during the 2019-2020 academic year to host many activities and events to encourage civic engagement.

These events included a Storm the Dorm event to promote voter registration and an open forum of the County of San Luis Opbispo Board Supervisor candidates for students to learn about each candidate’s policies. ASI also held multiple town hall meetings where students could voice their opinions on certain issues to representatives from the local, state and federal levels of government. 

With these funds ASI was also able to create a student assistant position with a salary of $3,684, according to the 2019-2020 Jordan Grant Civic Engagement Fund end of year report.

The student assistant researches laws and works with campus partners to develop trainings and presentations to educate groups on voter registration, according to ASI Representatives.

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