This is a guest entry from Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown
Today I was lucky enough to be invited by the Oregon Student Association to their press conference in which they announced that they had registered a whopping 14,272 students to vote in just 3 months!
With this incredible accomplishment in mind, I want to share a little bit of what I experience on Monday and Tuesday during this tour of seven of Oregon’s university campuses: PCC Sylvania, PCC Casdcade, Mt. Hood Community College, Portland State University, University of Oregon, Oregon State and Lane Community College.
The first thing I learned is that the students in this state are not sitting idly by while decisions are made in Salem. These students are showing us what civic engagement is all about.
And you should have seen them! Despite the cold and rainy weather, students were out on the streets of Eugene, Corvallis and Portland, fearlessly engaging their peers. Sometimes even after they had said no, or had walked right past without saying a thing.
They understand that sometimes voter registration comes one person at a time, but that each person they register could be the deciding vote. As someone who won her first race by 7 votes, I let them know just how important each and every voter they registered is, and I have to admit, I got caught up in their enthusiasm.
I was originally asked by the Student Association to talk about the role of students in the voting process during a set of ‘class raps’. We had so much fun with our scheduled raps, which sometimes had as many as 500 students in attendance, that we started up a series of ‘Guerilla Raps’, which were class raps in classrooms where we weren’t scheduled to speak. OSA approached professors and asked for permission and we launched right in. It was a great way to reach out to even more students before the registration deadline.
I also got an opportunity to help the students by hitting the streets and registering voters. We came across all kinds of students from all kinds of backgrounds including a couple of 17 year-olds taking advantage of a recent development in Oregon’s voting law, which allows 17 year-old Oregonians to register to vote in the election following their 18th birthday.
I walked away from the two day tour with a tremendous respect for the students in our great state. I saw an amazing level of dedication from those who took their time out of their busy schedules to volunteer. These volunteers are a credit to our state and will insure that the health of our democracy remains strong for another generation. I also came away with a sense that young people are paying attention to the world around them and that sometimes all it takes is their peers giving them information and they will respond.
I want to thank the Oregon Student Association for this opportunity and congratulate them on a tremendous job well done!
Kate Brown is the Oregon Secretary of State