UCSB often takes the cake for the number of students it registers to vote, signing up as many as 11,000 students before the last presidential election. This midterm election, 7,152 new students — focusing on the dorms, but also in Isla Vista — signed up to vote, making the total registered about 10,000. And distinctive at UCSB this year was that the quarter started more than a week later than it usually does, giving political junkies only 19 days to register students. People have to re-register to vote every time they move, which occurs often in Isla Vista.
Though college campuses often lean left, a high number of students are opting not to indicate a party preference — mirroring a trend across the state — and young people seem to be distancing themselves from labels in general. According to rough estimates, 4,000 of the new registers declined to state a party preference. About 2,500 checked Democrat and 600 registered Republican. Across the state, the number of “declined to state” voters increased by 2 percent in the four months since the primaries, according to the Sacramento Bee. It’s now up to 23.1 percent.
On Wednesday, several dozen gathered near Storke Tower, where Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom headlined a “Get Out the Vote” rally. Newsom, who opened with playful remarks but added serious bits about the importance of the congressional race for the 24th District, calling it very close and describing the candidates as polar opposites.
Congressmember Lois Capps, who’s up for reelection and is defending her seat against actor Chris Mitchum, also spoke, touching on the gun control bills signed into California law this year (authored by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assemblymember Das Williams), encouraging students to be safe on Halloween weekend, and telling them she and Mitchum have opposing positions on issues that matter to students — federal grants, women’s issues, and the environment. She also called it a “proud UCSB tradition to vote on Election Day.”
Referring to Santa Barbara as the birthplace of the environmental movement, Assemblymember Das Williams — wearing the bright blue “Yes on P” shirt — encouraged folks to vote for Measure P, the fracking, acidizing, and cyclic steam injection ban. Signs for Capps and “Yes on P” were planted in the grass, though a handful of “No on P” advocates, wearing bright green shirts, were sprinkled in the crowd.
Earlier in the week, at a “Get Out the Vote” rally for Mitchum held at the Fess Parker DoubleTree, a representative from UCSB Campus Republicans spoke, joking that Republicans were few and far between on campus. One campaign volunteer was singled out as the undercover voter fraud investigator for UCSB.
Up north, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo — UCSB’s counterpart in the 24th District — is more conservative than UCSB, but has become less so in past decades. About 1,400 new students signed up this election cycle, though that’s limited to university efforts; broader figures and party affiliation were not readily available.
But according to Cal Poly alum Nate Honeycutt, the campus is definitely more conservative compared to places like UC Berkeley, but it’s fairly moderate when you look at the numbers. Honeycutt created the website polypolitics.com in 2012 to analyze party preference among faculty. Honeycutt found that the College of Liberal Arts is overwhelming liberal; 50 percent of faculty are registered Democrat; 9.75 percent are Republican. But in the College of Agriculture, Republicans make up 33 percent of the faculty compared to Democrats’ 26 percent. He estimated that students in general were right in the middle on the liberal-conservative spectrum.
Cal Poly College Republican President Ashley Pierce said there have been efforts to encourage students to vote, though precinct walking has been tough with class schedules. She added the club has been focusing on the campaign of Lynn Compton for county supervisor.