For the first time ever, students living in the yakʔitʸutʸu residence halls will be able to vote in the upcoming county Board of Supervisors election.

The County Board of Supervisors is a five-member board that legislates San Luis Obispo County by setting policies and priorities for the community, according to the county website. San Luis Obispo has five districts and members serve four-year terms. This March, District 1, District 3 and District 5 have seats up for election.

The yakʔitʸutʸu residence halls reside in District 5, the only on-campus housing within this district. The other on-campus housing falls under District 2 – however the District 2 supervisor position is not up for election this year.

yakʔitʸutʸu was built after the district lines were redrawn in 2011. The lines are adjusted every 10 years after census population data is taken, dividing the county into districts of roughly equal populations. District 5 encompasses northern San Luis Obispo, Santa Margarita, Atascadero, East Templeton, Creston, Pozo, Ground Squirrel Hollow, and Carrisa Plains.

Current District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold is being challenged by former mayor of Atascadero Ellen Beraud.

Arnold, a Cal Poly alumna and former preschool owner, is running for her third term on the board. According to her website, her priorities as a board member are to hold government accountable by eliminating programs that are not working, promoting a local economy, protecting the county’s open spaces, and prioritizing fire protection and sheriff patrols.

Beraud, who co-owns and operates a small electrical contracting business, is centering her campaign around “sensible cannabis regulations,” improving roads and infrastructure, the future of San Luis Obispo’s housing, sustainable groundwater management and affordable childcare, according to her website.

Liberal studies freshman Rachael Tibbetts, who lives in yakʔitʸutʸu, expressed her interest in political participation, however she said she was unaware of the election. 

“I think the main influence that would make me want to vote is my parents,” Tibbetts said. “My mom keeps texting me like, ‘Rachael you’ve got to register to vote,’ so that’s probably the main motivator.”

Like many college students who are from out of the area, Tibbetts is registered to vote in her home town. And Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) has been trying to change that.

For the last few years, the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) has put together the Flex Your Right voter campaign meant to inform students and help them register to vote locally.

The Cal Poly Democrats club has worked through ASI to set up voter registration booths in the University Union and plan to have more in the yakʔitʸutʸu amphitheater, according to Cal Poly Democrats club secretary and political science senior Emma Sullivan.

As ASI and the Cal Poly Democrats have worked to increase the number of students registered locally, they stressed the importance of voter registration and students participating in local elections.

“I became politically involved when I got to college … I got super, super into federal politics and all that stuff,” Sullivan said. “But at the end of the day … our local representatives are the ones making the changeable change and so that’s why we really, really have been trying to push on campus for people to vote for candidates up and down the ballot.”

Sullivan said that many freshmen are active in the club and have worked with Beraud’s campaign, but she is unsure of how many live in the yakʔitʸutʸu dorms and could, therefore, vote in the election.

The Cal Poly Democrats club has plans for canvassing the yakʔitʸutʸu dorms, but a date is still being established, according to Sullivan.

A candidate forum with both Supervisor Arnold and Beraud will be held in yakʔitʸutʸu Hall Feb. 12 at 7 p.m.

“Whether you’re staying here or you’re not staying here, the habits that you build when you’re in college are habits that stay with you,” Beraud said. “Being engaged in your community now will lead to a richer life after you graduate because you’ll have some of these values already instilled in you.”

The election will take place March 3, on the same ballot as the presidential primary election, and voting by mail will start Feb. 3.

To find out what district you live in, use this website.

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