Many USF students were eager to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections. However, frustration arose when some were turned away from campus polling locations because they were not registered to vote in the precincts that were represented.
Student Government (SG) Director of Governmental Affairs Frank Hernandez correctly said the ideal solution to much of the day’s woes could have come in the form of on-campus early voting sites.
To address problems such as schedule conflicts that may prevent voters from completing their civic duty on Election Day, early voting and absentee voting by mail are offered.
Regardless of their assigned precinct, all residents of Hillsborough County are allowed to vote at one of the county’s 14 early voting sites as early as 15 days before an election.
The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections and leaders at USF should consider working toward making this idea a reality on campus.
Despite objections from upset students, everyone who wanted to vote Tuesday could only do so at their assigned precinct. It would not be fair to allow one group — such as USF students — to vote at a different precinct than they’re assigned, and allowing anyone to vote anywhere could bring about dangerous complications.
Besides the Hillsborough County Center, Robert L. Gilder Elections Service Center and Plant City’s City Hall, all the other early voting sites were local libraries.
Though the traffic and centrality of these locations may make them ideal for early voting sites, it’s doubtful they see more people than USF.
USF’s Tampa campus serves 40,429 students and 14,492 faculty and staff members.
The large number of regular visitors is larger than the total population of nearby cities such as Bradenton and Sarasota. The number of potential voters at USF may also be higher than these places since most students, faculty and staff are citizens over 18 years old.
There’s a possibility that USF may lose its voting sites because of issues with low turnout in the past, which is furthered by the fact that most students don’t live in the small area covered by USF precincts.
An early voting site on campus could be an ideal replacement regardless of whether the school loses its Election Day polling locations, and would benefit the large number of students, faculty and staff who live in Hillsborough County.
Creating an early voting site at USF would allow those with even the most complex schedules the opportunity to cast their ballot.
This realistic and pragmatic move would benefit voters who comprise the campus community and promote democracy in the area.