In the 10 years Gloria Olstrom has been working the polls in Precinct 353, she has never seen so many people show up to vote. On some years, she said less than 15 students have voted at the polls set up in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center. For an average year, it is about 20. This year, there were 40.
But in a precinct with 3,570 residents and 461 registered voters, the number could have been higher. Much higher.
“We get a lot of students in here that don’t even know where they are,” said Elaine Cox, who works alongside Olstrom for Precinct 353. “It kinda scares me what they don’t know.”
Because the boundaries for Precinct 353 are the same as those of the university, any student living on campus is eligible to vote in the Marshall Center polling location. But only 12.9 percent of the on-campus population even bothered to register in time for yesterday’s primary. Slightly more than 1 percent of those actually voted.
For Hillsborough County as a whole, about 69 percent of the residents are registered voters, according to the county’s Web site.
Derek Dillon, a sophomore who lives on campus, said that he saw no reason to register to vote in Hillsborough County and instead has remained registered in New Port Richey.
“I’m just not informed enough to vote out here,” he said.
Historically, Precinct 353 has always had low turnout numbers – partly because of students like Dillon, who choose to stay registered in their home district. In addition, many of those who live on campus have just recently reached voting age and either don’t take politics seriously or don’t yet know how the system works.
Freshman Mechelle Williams, who is from Ft. Lauderdale takes it one step further. She didn’t even file her own absentee ballot.
“My mom did all that for me,” Williams said. “She just voted for who she thought I would vote for.”
Despite the traditionally low voter turnout for USF residents, Student Government president Mike Griffin said that increasing voter participation is one of the priorities of his administration.
“We’ve probably done the most of any student government in the state,” Griffin said.
Still, some students on campus said that Student Government’s presence isn’t strong enough.
“I haven’t seen anything,” Dillon said.
Although the Marshall Center polling location was well marked inside the building, there was little outside to inform passers-by about the primaries.
Even the workers at the Marshall Center information desk were uninformed when it came to yesterday’s on-campus polling.
“I didn’t know about it until I walked into work today,” said junior Walt Lanier, who works at the information desk.
But, according to Clara Cantave, a student who voted in Precinct 353 yesterday, the lack of voter knowledge for the campus precinct doesn’t reflect well on the student body.
“That shows that people don’t care,” she said.
Contact Dustin Dwyer at firstname.lastname@example.org