First published in the Daily Emerald on October 16th. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Peter DeFazio encouraged students to register to vote while on the University of Oregon campus Tuesday morning. The last day to register to vote in Oregon before the midterm election in November is Tuesday.
“You always hear from politicians, ‘this is the most important election in your lifetime,’” DeFazio said to Charlie Butler’s Media and Social Action ARC seminar in Allen Hall. “Well, this one actually is.”
Wyden and DeFazio, both UO alumni, spoke in front of two classes and encouraged students to register. In their comments, they focused on national issues that have gained public attention recently, as well as the impact of voting on college affordability.
“Students are really facing enormous economic pressures, and the challenges are really hard,” said Wyden in an interview. “There’s something students can do that’s easy to make sure their voice is heard and they can make a difference.”
The pair was on campus supporting the efforts of VoteORVote, the Oregon Student Association’s campaign to get college students in Oregon registered to vote. The non-partisan group also informs them of the impact electing “pro-education” officials can have on student life, according to ASUO’s Internal Vice President Imani Dorsey.
“It’s really important that students vote just to make sure they’re keeping their elected officials accountable to them,” said Dorsey. “Here at the U of O, we can see [tuition] increases to like 10%, like we saw two years ago because the state didn’t fund us at a level that we wanted.”
The Congressmen stood in front of the opening slide of Gerry Berk’s Contemporary U.S. Politics lecture as they spoke to his class. The first point on the overview slide was “low turnout,” referring to the historic pattern of low voter turnout in midterm elections.
“We’re faced with the question of women’s privacy, Judge Kavanaugh going on the bench, we’ve heard what Donald Trump is talking about,” said Wyden. “Day after day, I watch the powerful come in and they get their goodies.”
DeFazio shared his personal experience taking out student loans.
”I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t gotten a little help, I took out in those days what were a lot of loans,” said DeFazio, “but my loans totaled about half of what most of you are going to graduate with.”
When the Congressmen asked students who was already registered to vote, the majority raised their hands. Students in each class asked questions ranging in topics from climate change, net neutrality and immigration, to the impact of Michael Cohen’s re-registration as a Democrat.
The pair remained on campus briefly after speaking to classes and tabled with student organizers at the corner of 13th avenue and University street, before they headed to Oregon State University in Corvallis for the afternoon.
“It is important,” DeFazio said in an interview, for students, in particular, to get out and vote. “I would say the most direct link that all students would agree on is the affordability of a college education.”