U. Oregon Student Leader Outlines Plan To Register New Voters

This story was written by Robert D'Andrea, Oregon Daily Emerald
ASUO President Sam Dotters-Katz elaborated Sunday on his plans to register 10,000 new voters by the fall deadline without a campus organizer traditionally integral to such a campaign, and amid cautious optimism from other student body presidents.

Dotters-Katz announced earlier this month that he would not hire a new Oregon Student Association campus organizer after Tom Hojem left his post at the University to become OSA's legislative director. Dotters-Katz called OSA "a lobbyist organization" and said students would benefit from a wider range of training in a new internship program.

The decision quickly reverberated throughout the Oregon University System, where OSA organizers work closely with every student government to plan campaigns in the state legislature, help manage staff members and map out ways to achieve on-campus policy objectives for the year. In the ASUO office, Hojem's desk was adjacent to the president's.

Dotters-Katz has made an ambitious voter registration goal his first major policy objective. Oregon's deadline for new voter registration is Oct. 4 - or Tuesday of the first week of fall term.

Associated Students of Portland State University President Hannah Fisher said she and Dotters-Katz "are good friends and I respect any decisions that he makes."

"I let him know how hard it's been to not have (a campus organizer) for the last couple of months," she said. "Unfortunately, I spoke to him after his decision was already made."

Former ASUO Chief of Staff Jennifer Lleras will begin Monday as PSU's campus organizer, a spot that has been vacant since Fisher took office in May.

Josh Canaday, president of Associated Students of Lane Community College, said he was recruited into student government by OSA, and the organization continues to recruit and develop new student government leaders.

Fisher said other universities are "concerned" about the ability of all schools to meet voter registration goals because the entire state works as a team.

"If U of O fails then we all fail," she said, noting that OSA has a track record of new voter registration. "If it's not broken you don't fix it."

Dotters-Katz does not seem worried about meeting his goal. He said his administration will provide 4,500 registration cards to residence halls. Locked voter registration drop boxes will be placed around campus, and Building Votes, a non-partisan youth voter registration effort, will provide volunteers, he said.

"There's going to be a huge presence on campus, and we expect that we will met our goal due to the effective planning of my team and the work of a huge corps of volunteers," Dotters-Katz said.

Professors will be contacted to arrange for volunteers to provide in-class pitches in all large lectures for students to register, and the athletic department and club sports will be targeted to reach out to student athletes, he said.

"We're working with Greek Life to have a voter registration contest between fraternities and sororities," Dotters-Katz said. The ASUO is also working to recruit volunteers at IntroDUCKtion orientations.

"We're taking any and all measures that we can to reach out to every single student at the University of Oregon," Dotters-Katz said before adding, "within the realm of reason and good practice."

PSU's Fisher is not giving up on Dotters-Katz.

"I think that Sam is a great guy and he knows that not having a vote organizer on campus is going to make it a lot harder to meet his voter registration goal. That is something that he is going to take on to accomplish himself, and hopefully he can," Fisher said.