Confusion mounts over where midterm ballots will be cast on-campus

With the impending demolition of Ground Zero Cafe, USC students wonder where voting will take place this year.

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With the midterm elections approaching on Nov. 8, many USC students are unsure of how or where to cast their ballots. This confusion developed after the announcement of the destruction of the previous on-campus voting location, Ground Zero Cafe, which rendered the space off limits.

From 2016 to 2020, USC’s student voter registration rate increased by 20%. However, following national voting patterns, USC’s midterm election turnout pales in comparison to presidential primary elections. In 2018, the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement reported that less than 60% of registered California voters actually participated in the midterm election. As students wait for the announcement of voting locations for the upcoming elections, many struggle with creating a plan to cast their ballots.

“I’m sure there’s lots of students who can vote but don’t know about it,” said Amitai Segeb, a senior majoring in business administration. “I don’t think USC is doing anything either – I’m not even sure when the midterm elections are. I’ll probably just be notified the day of.”

Students are able to check their registration status and voting locations at LA Vote. Yet, many students may lack the knowledge or motivation to engage in their civic duty. USC organizations like VoteSC have made efforts to increase voter registration through pop-up stands and information booths, but some students say the university itself can do more to foster civic engagement.

“I wish there were more ways to get the students involved, to more actively seek out ways to engage students in voting,” said Audrey Xia, a junior majoring in business administration. “I know we might have done some registration booths – it’d be really cool to see some bigger campus initiatives to increase voter registration.”

Out-of-state students are additionally challenged by the geographical distance from their in-person voting locations.

“I’m sure [USC] has resources for out-of-state students, but I just haven’t seen them or interacted with them,” said Gloria Jin, a junior majoring in environmental studies and public relations. “I also don’t know where to go to vote. I know last year, a lot of my friends that are California residents went to a booth they had on campus, but I didn’t know how to register so I didn’t.”

Registered voters hoping to participate in the midterm elections might also receive a mail-in ballot weeks before the election, but some students are unsure if they will actually receive theirs due to a change in address.

“For me, I’m between different addresses so they don’t send me the right materials,” Xia said. “I wish I were more educated about [mail-in ballots]. I feel like we weren’t educated on what we need to do to be prepared to vote.”

According to Xia, this places an increased pressure on the institution to engage their students in the civic process.

“University is all about cultivating tomorrow’s leaders,” Xia said. “Civic education is a very big part of that – and I think that’s really missing in USC’s programming in general.”

USC has extensive detail, including maps of ballot boxes, about where students can vote here.

The last day for California residents to register to vote for the midterm election is Oct. 24, two weeks before election day on Nov. 8. California also has a process for provisional same-day voter registration. Voting locations are announced 20-40 days prior to election day.

Update: In the previous version of this story, there was no information provided regarding ballot box locations. The story has been changed to reflect this update on Oct. 4 at 3:52 p.m. We regret the error.