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SOU students sign up students to vote

ASHLAND ' A day before Southern Oregon University student Christa Brice volunteered to man a campus table registering students to vote, she wasn't registered herself.

I've been really unhappy with Bush and I decided I really needed to register myself to vote, said Brice, 24, a junior from Portland.

She also decided to volunteer in the campus registration effort.

I thought it was important for students to register and get our say, she said. There are issues and races up this year that affect us and we need to get our voices out and vote.

Brice and other volunteers are part of the 2004 Student Vote Coalition, a nonpartisan alliance sponsored by Associated Students of Southern Oregon University (ASSOU), the Oregon Student Association, the New Voters Project, and the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG).

— The goal is to register 2,000 young adults in the community, said Gina Lutz, campus organizer for OSPIRG. The statewide effort has a target of registering 30,000 students.

At SOU, volunteers have gone to an SOU football game, set up in front of the student union on a daily basis, and were there when students arrived on campus last week for student orientation.

On Friday, the coalition will participate in a voter- registration drive downtown and at a Rock the Vote music festival beside the football stadium on Oct. 9.

For many years, national trends have shown a steady decline in younger people voting. In the 2000 election, only 36 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds turned out to vote, according to the student vote coalition. In the 2000 presidential election, only half of Oregon's eligible students voted.

It's always a problem in our age group, Lutz said. I would say one reason is that politicians are not paying attention to this age group, so many are not voting. It's a bad cycle.

Bill Hughes, associate professor of political science at SOU, believes a key reason for voter apathy in many college-age students is a lack of connection with a political party, an issue or a community. Among a large percent of this age group, he said the majority of young adults are figuring out their own life directions and experiences, and are focused on themselves and not the world at large. But it normally changes as they get older, start to raise a family, and have ties to a community or an issue, he said.

It's great to see any type of political mobilization on campus, he said. Seeing a collective action is a positive thing.

So far, more than 430 people have registered, Lutz said.

She said many people were registering for the first time, and that many said they were already registered.

It's looking quite encouraging so far, Lutz said. It's great to see so many students volunteering. It's about students registering students — It's someone your age that can speak to you about issues and things you care about.

Registering is only the first step, Lutz stressed.

It's not enough to register to vote, she said. You need to vote. It's easy, especially in Oregon. All they have to do is put a stamp on their ballots and send it off.

Bill Choy is a reporter for the and the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 482-3456.