It's not often that local politicians and local rock bands share the same stage, but that's exactly what happened at Rock the Vote in Mission Plaza on Sunday. With May 18 as the last day to register to vote for this November's election, the event worked to get procrastinators signed up as reggae and rock beats flooded the plaza.
Rock the Vote is a national campaign that aims to engage young voters in the political process through music, popular culture and celebrity endorsements. Rock the Vote registered more than 1.2 million voters nationwide through its Web site, and an additional 200,000 through organized events in 2004.
The campaign came to San Luis Obispo for the first time this year, thanks to the work of Cal Poly political science seniors Kate Younglove, Nikki Razavi and Brandon Welshons.
With their months of hard work now paid off, the three students sat back on Sunday to soak up the sun, enjoy a few cold beers, and listen to the bands up on stage.
The event was a first for San Luis Obispo, and featured local bands Resination and Siko on stage as hundreds of people showed up to enjoy the free live music and walk around the booths.
"This was a great idea," Welshons said, shouting over Resination's reggae music. "Today's been a great success; everybody's happy and we're getting people involved in the political process."
The idea came to Younglove last November when she had breakfast with one of the members of Resination.
"We started this with the idea that this would be a great way to get Cal Poly students to care about politics," she explained.
Younglove took the idea from there, getting Razavi involved to manage the event's finances and garner sponsorship from the local business community, and later Welshons to further help on the project.
Welshons said that their senior project got permission and approval from the national Rock the Vote campaign and MTV to use the campaign's name and logo, but were largely left on their own to organize the event from there. He said that organizing the event was like a part-time job for the three of them, estimating that they collectively put in 20 to 25 hours a week into their project.
"Today has turned out better than expected," Younglove said. "We've gotten as many people out here as we wanted and more."
Cal Poly's Democratic and Republican clubs and the Political Science club were among the student organizations that came out to encourage their peers to get involved.
"I've enjoyed getting people registered to vote," said Pete Vadelnieks, political science senior and a student intern for the San Luis Obispo Democratic Party.
"There's not a big enough youth vote presence, so we're just trying to get people registered right now," he added, clipboard and voter registration forms in hand.
Razavi said she hopes Rock the Vote will continue in San Luis Obispo not just on presidential election years, but also during local election years.
"The local elections affect us as Cal Poly students just as much," she explained. "Hopefully this will get people excited about that too."
"We'd love to see someone take our project and continue it," Younglove added.
That hope will certainly be shared by the local politicians who briefly took the stage between bands to spread their message.
"All the young people here are the future leaders," said Adam Hill, candidate for 3rd District supervisor and Cal Poly English professor. "It's important that they exercise their rights."
State Assembly candidate Robert Cuthbert also took the stage to speak.
"The thing about vting is you can vote your heart... you can vote your beliefs," he said. "The basic responsibility of you as a citizen is that you vote, but I also encourage you to be an activist for your beliefs."
"How many people here are satisfied with the state of politics in this country right now?" he asked the crowd.They answered with with a resounding "No!"
"Then I encourage you to get involved. You can change that - you can vote," he said.