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  • Lily Chen

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  • Lily Chen

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Virtually Engaging Student Voters

The new Civic Engagement Office is working to register and engage as many UC San Diego student voters as they can for the upcoming presidential election

American flags.

With the excitement surrounding fall move-in, the newly formed Civic Engagement Office (CEO) under UC San Diego’s Associated Students (AS) is also urging incoming UC San Diego students to register to vote to exercise their voice in the upcoming presidential election on Nov. 3.

Formerly known as the Student Organized Voter Access Committee, or SOVAC, it was rebranded as CEO, which has a broader focus on civic engagement beyond just voter registration, allowing students to be civically engaged post-election. To keep students excited and generate buzz around the election even during a pandemic, CEO has organized multiple events and new initiatives centered around keeping students informed about the civic process.

This year, campus voting locations (consistent with San Diego County) will open for a total of four days, from Saturday, Oct. 31 until Nov. 3, to ensure people can abide by social distancing guidelines while casting their votes. While students can register to vote all the way up to Election Day in California, CEO is encouraging students to register to vote by Sep. 17 so they can receive a mail-in ballot in time.

Utilizing TurboVote to keep students informed about voting

To increase student voter turnout during these unprecedented times where in-person events pose a public health risk, CEO worked with the AS Graphic Studio to create cards that were included in the orientation packages mailed to each incoming student. The card contains a link to the TurboVote website, a non-partisan website dedicated to making the voting process as easy as possible. With this electronic platform, students have easy access to election information to vote with confidence.

Tritons Vote pledge card.

These cards, created with CEO and AS Graphic Studio, were included in the orientation packages mailed to each incoming student. The cards are intended to encourage students to think about how they’ll be voting come November.

The cards are intended to encourage students to think about how they’ll be voting come November. “A number of studies have shown that people who have a plan are more likely to actually vote,” said Heather Belk, director of AS administration. “The prompts on the back of the cards will serve as reminders for students to be thinking about their nearest polling locations; whether they wish to vote in person, early or by mail; and note the upcoming registration deadlines.”

Out-of-state UC San Diego students have the option to register to vote in California when they move in or keep their voter registration in their home state, depending on their personal preference. Because every state has a slightly different voter registration process, TurboVote makes it easy for students to get individualized information, like whether their state allows online registration or not, and helping them fill out the forms correctly. Students can register to vote for the first time, re-register with a new address, apply to vote by mail and more on UC San Diego's TurboVote site.

The Tritons Vote coalition for UC San Diego student organizations

Tritons Vote graphic.

CEO has also formed the Tritons Vote coalition among UC San Diego student organizations, where any interested student org would send one member to monthly coalition meetings hosted by CEO. These members would be provided with information and materials about voter registration and voting locations from CEO to take back and share with their student organizations. For any student organizations interested in joining the Tritons Vote coalition, email

“While our current priority at CEO is voter registration and education efforts in preparation for the upcoming election, the design of CEO is to keep all UC San Diego students civically engaged not only up through November, but beyond,” said Janelle Eley, executive director of CEO. “Civic engagement is a lifelong commitment, and one that is so important for our generation especially. Students often forget how much power our voices truly have—so our goal is to remind, inspire, and ignite the leaders within all of us and our ability to make change.”

Triton Voting Initiative among student athletes

UC San Diego Athletics has created its own campaign among Triton athletes, called the Triton Voting Initiative, to register as many student athletes to vote as possible. The initiative was spearheaded by the Triton Athletes’ Council (TAC), UC San Diego’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) that exists as a forum for student-athletes to present and discuss issues relevant to the quality of the athletic component of their collegiate experience at UC San Diego.

"I am thrilled about the launch of the Triton Voting Initiative and hope that this campaign will help empower scholar-athletes to become more engaged in the democratic process,” said Gabe Avillion, president of TAC. “Voting is one of the most influential tools we have to effect change on the issues that are important to us, and it provides an opportunity to have a say in the decision-making that impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. It is about more than any single candidate or election—it is about participating in the patriotic act of getting informed and casting a ballot that represents your beliefs on how best to improve our country.”

A “Ballot Bowl” competition between San Diego colleges

Thanks to CEO’s efforts, UC San Diego is also participating in a local competition called “Ballot Bowl” with California State University San Marcos, University of San Diego, San Diego State University and Point Loma Nazarene to see who among the colleges can get the highest number of registered voters by the deadline of Nov. 3. Inspired by the statewide “Ballot Bowl” among all of California’s major higher education systems organized by the California Secretary of State Office, the competition is designed to encourage universities and colleges to engage their students in the democratic process and register them to vote—whether they are physically on campus, or not.

As Nov. 3 comes closer, CEO hopes to plan virtual debate watching parties and do social media challenges to keep students engaged and interested. Follow CEO on Instagram @asucsdceo to keep up with their events or ask any civic or voter related questions. Visit UC San Diego's TurboVote site to sign up for information you need to vote and election reminders as well as to start the voter registration or re-registration process.

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