5 Ways to Prepare for Midterm Elections with Mary Currin-Percival
SJSU students prepare for to exercise their right to vote. Photo: Robert C. Bain.
San José State University Political Science Professor Mary Currin-Percival wants people to know their rights. As director of SJSU’s Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement (IPACE) and the on-campus voter registration, mobilization and education initiative SJSU Votes!, Currin-Percival is focused on informing SJSU students and the public about the November 8 election.
Midterm elections also offer an important opportunity for voters to voice their opinions on local and state ballot measures, as well as city council, mayoral and state representatives. San José State will have a voting station at the Provident Credit Union Event Center starting on Saturday, Oct. 29. Doors open from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. every day on the south side of the Event Center, near the Spartan Recreation and Aquatic Center — and on election day, it will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Currin-Percival shared five recommended actions you can take before the November midterm elections:
1. Register to vote (if you aren’t already)
To register to vote in California, you must be at least 18 years old; an American citizen, and a California resident; not currently serving a state or federal prison term for the conviction of a felony; and not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court. If you are registered in another county but wish to vote on San José issues, you must re-register in Santa Clara County. You can also sign up for Ballot Trax to see when your ballot is received and counted.
For individuals who will be under 18 years old on November 8, the state allows 16 and 17 year-olds to pre-register to vote.
If you register to vote through the California Secretary of State’s website, you’ll add to SJSU’s growing voter registration count through the California University and College Ballot Bowl — a friendly competition between higher education institutions across the state developed by the California Students Vote Project (SVP). Last fall, SJSU came in 10th place amongst 23 California State Universities.
Though the deadline to register to vote to receive a mail ballot is Oct. 24, Californians can register to vote in person up until, and even on, election day.
2. Understand what and who is on your ballot
Currin-Percival recommends visiting non-partisan sites such as Voter’s Edge to access information on your ballot that is specific to your zip code. Currin-Percival says it can be helpful to review which community organizations, unions or political action committees have endorsed or opposed ballot initiatives. View the California Secretary of State Official Voter Information Guide.
3. Attend voting workshops and events on campus and in the community
Various student and community organizations, such as SJSU Votes!, plan to host non-partisan informational events on campus in the weeks leading up to the election. As faculty advisor for SJSU’s Pi Sigma Alpha (Epsilon Iota chapter) political science honor society, Currin-Percival hopes to collaborate with Associated Students, the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters and other organizations to provide forums about mayoral candidates and other San José-specific initiatives.
On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the SJSU Votes Festival will recognize National Voter Registration Day on campus, featuring the following community partners: The Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, Associated Students, Bridge SJSU, Beyond Sparta, the Center for Community Learning & Leadership, Students Demand Action, The Pride Center, the Gender Equity Center, Pi Sigma Alpha, the Accessible Education Center, the Veterans Resource Center, the California Faculty Association, and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Additional events will be happening concurrently from Oct. 3–7 as part of the national Voter Education Week.
4. Make a plan to vote
It’s not enough to register and do your homework, says Currin-Percival — you’ve got to budget time to vote. If you plan to vote in person, locate your closest vote center. If you plan to vote by mail or drop off your completed ballot in person, set aside time to do so.
5. Work or volunteer for the election
The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters hires election workers to assist with opening and closing Vote Centers; setting up equipment and supplies; checking in and processing voters; distributing ballots; assisting voters with casting their ballots; ensuring that ballots are collected appropriately; and printing, scanning, filing, batching and boxing ballots at a vote center or at the Registrar of Voters Office.
SJSU Votes! is always looking for additional volunteers to help with registration, mobilization and education events.
“Working or volunteering for elections is a great way to gain hands-on experience with the democratic process,” Currin-Percival said. “Even if you are ineligible to vote, you can get involved by volunteering with organizations you care about, canvas neighborhoods for causes you believe in, or simply educate yourself and others about issues on the ballot. That, in itself, is valuable.”
Visit SJSU Votes! to learn more about voter registration events this fall.