UCLA beats USC in voter registration competition — by thousands

FILE: A voter registration sign is seen at a polling station on November 6, 2012 in Richmond, Wisconsin.
FILE: A voter registration sign is seen at a polling station on November 6, 2012 in Richmond, Wisconsin.
Darren Hauck/Getty Images

This fall quarter, the two Southern California universities had something to compete over other than a football game at the Coliseum — USC and UCLA went head-to-head in a competition over political might. They were challenged to collect 17,000 new voter registration applications before the Oct. 24 deadline, and UCLA came out on top with just over 10,000 — while USC collected only 411.  

Yara Hejazi, executive director of the student organization Vote for Our Future at UCLA, helped lead that school's efforts. Vote for Our Future was just one of the six campus groups who formed a coalition, totaling about 130 people, with the common goal of increasing civic engagement and register people vote, he said. 

Hejazi credits the Bruin Walk, the main artery on campus with the highest student traffic, as one of the reasons for the school's success. Students would stand there with clipboards, encouraging people to vote.

“If they didn’t register to vote, we would offer them stickers, and the stickers had the link to our website. So, even if we didn’t get them then, the possibility of getting them later was of course increased,” the fourth-year political science major said.  

This registration cycle, they also had a resource that wasn't available before: access to the campus dorms. In collaboration with the UCLA housing department, they were able to go door-to-door to ask residents to register to vote.

The idea came from UC Santa Barbara, which Hejazi said has had the highest voter registration numbers for some time.

“We got a lot of people registered to vote that way because it’s just super convenient. ... It doesn’t really get much more convenient than that, so we had a lot of students who were receptive to that,” he said. 

Both schools fell short of their goal, but Hejazi said he enjoyed invoking the campus rivalries for a good cause. 

“I would much rather have a high goal that we came close to reaching than have one that we were obviously going to hit,” he said. 

As of Oct. 25, Los Angeles had nearly 5.2 million registered voters, according to a statement from the county's Registrar-Recorder's office. 

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