CAMPAIGN TO INCREASE NUMBER OF REGISTERED STUDENT VOTERS
Immigration, health care and student debt. These are just some of the hot topics on the presidential campaign trail. With the November elections quickly approaching, the news is becoming ever more saturated with political coverage, detailing changes in policy positions, cabinet choices and new public poll results. Although many of the issues resonate with college-age individuals, voter turnout among University of San Diego students has been lower than the national average in past elections.
Associate Professor of Political Science Casey Dominguez aims to remedy this. As an undergraduate student, Dominguez interned at the White House and the California State Assembly. Having earned her BA, MA and PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, Dominguez is now focused on educating the newest voting demographic on the importance of fulfilling one’s civic duty by actively participating as members of American society.
“In 2014, voter turnout among USD students was 16 percent,” said Dominguez (pictured at left). “That was slightly lower than the national average of college campuses. That means that a lot of USD students will be voting for the first time this year.”
Increasing voter turnout is important; that’s why Dominguez is one of the faculty members behind the USD Votes Campaign, an on-campus initiative comprised of student leaders, staff, faculty and the Changemaker Hub, who are focused on providing support and coordination efforts aimed to encourage community members to become registered voters.
“Voting can be especially complicated and confusing for college students, who are going through the process for the first time,” she says. “Research shows that informational campaigns that walk new voters through the voter registration and the voting process can significantly increase turnout.”
For Dominguez, encouraging voting habits comes with her chosen field. “The whole reason we teach political science is because we care about educating the next generation of citizens. The focus is natural for us,” she says. While the campaign’s goal of registering every USD student is ambitious, she believes that even slight changes in voting behavior will make a societal difference.
“Voting is a practice and a habit. The only way to establish a pattern of voting across your lifetime is to get started doing it,” she says. “Our ambitious goal is to register every eligible USD student and turn them all out to vote. We know that’s probably a stretch, but why not aim high?”
As a university focused on educating the next generation of global Changemakers, the USD Votes Campaign contributes to this global citizenship perspective by encouraging student involvement in these most basic rights — the chance to exercise freedom of thought and actively engage in social change.
As an essential part of encouraging a global Changemaking focus, Dominguez sees this program as a crucial part of the USD education. For her, social change is directly tied to voting, with active citizens working to help change laws and policies.
“In democracies, peaceful change happens at the ballot box,” she says. “Global citizenship begins in your local community, in your state and in your nation. The rest of the world looks to the United States for leadership; in order to lead the nation and the world in the direction of social justice, young people have to get involved, get informed and vote. At USD, we want our students to make change in the world, and being an active, voting citizen is an integral part of that effort.”
Of course, for all citizens, education is crucial. Toward that end, Dominguez and fellow political science and international relations faculty colleagues Cory Gooding and Tim McCarty have created a compelling, approachable weekly podcast, A Few Reasonable Words, meant to help “soothe the frayed nerves of the American public with the comforting balm of political science.” — Allyson Meyer ’16
Listen at www.sandiego.edu/reasonable-words.