Washington Bus rolls in to register student voters

By Elizabeth Ballinger

A crowd gathers in front of the Wasington Bus

Wednesday morning, BCC students stepped on to the Washington Bus and voiced their political opinions over the radio, got last-minute mail-in voter registration cards, visited prospective and emerging campus clubs, and got a taste of neapolitan ice cream all in one trip. “We want to raise awareness, and we hope to make more students care about politics,” said Dominic Lee, ASG Club Representative. The event, “Get on the Bus and Get out the Vote,” organized by the ASG, the Legislative Committee, and BCC’s radio station, KBCS 91.3, invited the state-wide Washington Bus organization to come persuade students not yet registered to do so before the October 4 deadline.

The non-partisan organization’s goal is to get young people interested in politics and civic affairs by organizing voter registration events, by canvassing with progressive candidates’ campaigns, by talking to students about issues concerning them and then lobbying for those issues in state legislature.

“It’s pretty exciting that we in America can be so involved in democracy,” said Molly Price, a worker with the Bus. “We want to discuss and affect politics in a way that resonates with young people.” Beginning in Washington last fall, the volunteers loaded onto the 47-seat bus worked on nine political campaigns with grass-roots organizers, and in a recent campaign knocked on 3,000 doors before the candidate won the election by 411 votes.

The bus has affiliate organizations in New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, and Oregon through their parent organizer the Bus Federation, all growing from the original model which began in Oregon in 2001.

Janessa Galimba, a student at BCC, picked up her voter’s registration card from the Bus’s table. “I didn’t know what all this was about,” she said in response to seeing a bus roll onto campus. After checking it out, Galimba, who had recently begun to consider voting, decided now was the time. “Everyone’s voting. I better keep up.”

Already registered to vote, second-year student An Dang believes the event might change other people’s minds. “People will see the effort here and put more thought into voting,” Dang said.

BCC’s legislative committee, in support of the event, was also distributing voter registration cards. “The ASG initiated the idea of inviting the organization onto campus,” said officer Angelina Gradskaya. “You could say we jumped on the bus.”

The committee handed out surveys asking students what form of campus communication reaches them most effectively. Working closely with both the ASG and the Washington Student Lobbyists (WSL), the committee aims to determine what academic and political issues matter to BCC students, then bring the student body’s concerns to the ASG. Initiated on campus last year, the committee also travels with WSL to take these issues to state government in Olympia.

“We want to find out what’s most important to students,” said Gradskaya. “They are welcome to come to us [in our student program’s office] and rant.”

KBCS 93.1 used the bus as a recording studio during Wednesday’s event. Reporters asked students to climb on to the 1989 bus, sit at one of the fold-up tables, and answer questions about where they get their political news from, what issues matter to them, who influences their opinions, and what it would take to get them involved personally in the process. Yuko Kudama, one of the station’s producers, reported that a considerable number of students were worried about healthcare and the war in Iraq.

“People tended to want to be well-informed, and they felt they should become more engaged,” said Kudama. Most students reported receiving their news from friends and family, some from CNN and other major TV networks, and some from newspapers and web news. Many said they talk about politics at school, and with their friends and families.

Students pick up voter registration card from Washington Bus workers two days before the October 4 deadline.

Campus clubs lining the outside of the Student Union building introduced themselves and to new and returning students. Several established clubs, including the International Student Association (ISA), the Indonesian Student Association, and the UNICEF club presented information about upcoming events, including the UNICEF sponsored “Memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” event, and a multi-club sponsored talent show scheduled for Spirit Week.

Clubs in the process of rechartering, including the Latin American Culture Club and the Gay Straight Alliance, worked on sparking student’s interest . students were invited to come to meetings and give their ideas about rebooting the clubs.

“We’re trying to make a better environment for Desi [Southeast Asian and Indian] Students,” said Amber Parknikar, about bringing students into the Desi Club.

With plans in the making for a center for gay, lesbian and bisexual students in the next year modeled after UW’s “The Q,” member Laurel Cooper said the Gay-Straight Alliance hopes to invite students of multiple backgrounds to help support and organize the Student Program’s LGBTQ center.

Indonesian Culture Club and UNICEF display BCC students information about upcoming events their clubs will sponsor.

Other clubs present included the Muslim Student Association, The Student Science Association, the Human Rights International Club, Phi theta Kappa, and The Ice Cream Club. With a requirement of only five members to start a club, the Ice Cream Club’s members doled out tiny cones of Ice Cream and posted a sign that read “Vote or your Opinions Will Melt Way.”

“I don’t think you can tell a club by it’s booth,” said student Christine Casebellt. “If I had more time I might join, I’d have to find out more about them.”

As for student Dean Yonev, more consideration might not be necessary: “I’ll do anything for ice cream.”