Amid the in-between-class hustle and bustle of Trousdale Parkway Tuesday, two members of VoteSC stood on a ledge near the Center for International and Public Affairs holding cardinal and gold pom poms.
“Register to vote to get free ice cream,” members yelled, leading students to the organization’s table on the side of the walkway.
The event was in honor of National Voter Registration Day, which takes place annually on the fourth Tuesday of September. VoteSC, the Center for Political Future and the Undergraduate Student Government, took part in a joint effort.
Upon arriving at the table, students scanned a QR code that led to a Google Form, which acted as a pledge to vote in upcoming elections. If the student had not already registered to vote, the form also provided a link to VoteSC’s website, which lists instructions of the process. Once the student signed the pledge, a member of VoteSC staff gave them a sticker, which they could exchange for free ice cream provided by Coolhaus.
About 30 minutes after the start of the event, a line formed at the Coolhaus ice cream truck long enough to wrap around the corner of Trousdale and Childs Way. The flock of people at the intersection attracted more students to the event.
“[The event] is very attention grabbing,” said Lily Perry, a senior majoring in computer science, while waiting for the ice cream. “It’s in a good spot on campus, and people notice the long line.”
Christian Burks, a senior majoring in public policy and co-president of VoteSC, said the organizers’ expected a turnout of about 200 students.
“I’ve been very pleasantly surprised because this was our first in-person event in a while, and it’s a non-election year,” Burks said. “I think people don’t have the same energy and activism and passion for voting, but I guess the ice cream doesn’t hurt.”
Besides the gubernatorial recall election earlier this month, no state-wide or national elections are upcoming this year. Even though 2021 is not an election-packed year, Burks stressed the importance of keeping students energized about political engagement.
“I think it’s important that we keep doing events like this, even in non-election years, just to build a culture and infrastructure on voting on campus, not just one that comes and goes every two years when there’s an election,” Burks said.
Attendee Chantal Corona, a freshman majoring in health and human sciences, recognized that political involvement events are helpful for student engagement in California’s governmental scene.
“[These events] are important because it at least gets the community and the students talking and knowing that registration is important,” Corona said. “Getting involved in politics and voting, at least for the state of California, it’s helpful and it’s knowledgeable.”
VoteSC events such as National Voter Registration Day, were previously held online since last March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Burks said the virtual events were “fulfilling but not as fulfilling as they could be.”
“[Being in-person] is very relieving because this kind of reminds you why you do the work that you do,” he said. “This is something that makes me really feel good.”