By Katie Keller
On Tuesday — the day of the 2018 midterm — Stanford students registered to vote in Santa Clara County will be able to cast their ballots at any of five locations on campus: Tresidder Union, the Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford West Apartments, Escondido Elementary School and Nixon Elementary School. The polling places will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m., as required by California election law.
On-campus polls should expect to be especially busy today, as Stanford students have registered to vote at unprecedentedly high rates in this election. According to co-director of Stanford Votes Antonia Hellman ’21, the organization has registered 2,074 people for the election — a significant spike from 1,438 in the 2016 presidential election, and just 820 in the 2014 midterms.
“We not only made it to the count that we had for the 2016 election, but we actually got it by more than 600 registrations, which is huge,” said Hellman, saying that it was “very, very rare” to get more turnout for a midterm election than a presidential one. “There was a lot of excitement around the presidential election, but it did not translate into registration, at least on many college campuses.”
The movement to get Stanford students registered to vote has been particularly active this year, in spite of Stanford students’ history of low voter turnout. Though millennial voter turnout in the 2016 election was low across the board, Stanford fared particularly poorly on this front. Fewer than 50 percent of students voted in 2016, below the average for higher education institutions. Fewer than one in five voted in the 2014 midterms.
In collaboration with other on- and off-campus organizations, like Stanford in Government and the League of Women Voters, Stanford Votes has aimed to make voting as easy as possible for Stanford students over the course of the quarter. Having polling places in well-trafficked areas such as Tresidder and the Haas Center, said Hellman, should make voting convenient for students registered in Santa Clara County. Stanford Votes also has been providing resources such as postage and printing services for students mailing in absentee ballots.
“We just wanted to make things as easy as possible, because voting can seem kind of difficult,” said Hellman.
Hellman expressed hope that the strong political opinions held by young people would translate into better turnout from this demographic.
“We’re the ones who are going to be living in the future of America, and it’s kind of sad if we don’t actually take advantage of the opportunity that we have to shape what that America looks like,” Hellman said. “There are a lot of people out there who have really strong political opinions and don’t vote, and that doesn’t make sense to me — if you believe in one way or another about politics, then you should feel powerful enough to go out and vote.”
Contact Katie Keller at ktkeller ‘at’ stanford.edu.