Are voter rallies effective?
Voter registration success depends on student interest
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 01:09
From the start of the semester, USF students and student organizations have intensified their efforts in educating and registering student voters at numerous voter rallies.
But Ron Hasty, a youth voter educator for Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, said USF student voter rallies only make a real difference if students are motivated and interested in voting.
“They are only as effective as the excitement of the voters,” Hasty said. “If they really don’t care, then no. But if someone really wants to vote and they really want to make their voice and their opinion (heard), then yeah, they are effective.”
At one recent voter rally hosted by Hasty, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) at USF and five other student organizations, 100 students attended and 20 students registered to vote in Hillsborough County. At another voter rally, 50 students showed up, 23 registered and 18 changed voter information.
“My guess is that probably a fairly high percentage of USF students that are eligible (to vote) are probably already registered,” Susan MacManus, USF political science professor said. “What you’re doing is you’re (getting) those who haven’t done it to do so. But I don’t think you’re ever going to get a huge — like thousands of people registering at one event, ever.”
MacManus also said conducting many voter registration rallies on campus is important because students — who all have different class and work schedules — have a better chance of coming upon a rally at different times and registering right then and there.
“Registration drives are always making it convenient for people to register,” she said. “(It’s) an important part of any college campus in terms of turning out good citizens.”
Hasty said 908,000 citizens are eligible to vote in Hillsborough County. According to the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections website, 716,000 residents are registered to vote.
There are 98,366 registered voters between the ages of 18 to 25 in Hillsborough County. There were 99,980 registered voters in the same age group in the 2008 presidential election, and out of those registered voters, 57,554 voted.
As of 2010, 180,020 15 to 24-year-olds live in Hillsborough County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Hasty said another reason for the many USF voter registration rallies is to educate and register students before the very last minute, which is something that happened in the last election cycle. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 9.
For the upcoming presidential election, Hasty said he collaborated with three USF voter rallies so far this semester and plans to attend more. The main messages are to tell students how to register in the county where they will vote or educate them about the option of casting an absentee ballot for those who want to vote in their home county, Hasty said.
“We’re letting them know if they don’t want to change their address, and they want to vote in their own county, then they have to notify their Supervisor of Elections in their county so they can get a vote by mail ballot and return it in time before deadline,” he said.
Jessica Flores-McGrath and Jaucy Pierre-Lewis, both sophomores majoring in biology, went to one of the campus rallies to register to vote in Hillsborough County. They said they came upon the rally accidentally and didn’t intend to register at first, but just wanted to get more information about the presidential candidates. Both of them registered to vote in Hillsborough County during the rally.