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Obama wins student straw poll

If it were up to USF students, Barack Obama would be the next president of the United States, according to a straw poll taken Monday.

In January’s primary straw poll, students chose Obama as their Democratic candidate and Ron Paul as their Republican candidate.

Of the 2,037 who voted Monday, about 64 percent cast their ballot for Obama. Another 32 percent voted for Republican candidate John McCain, while the remaining 4 percent voted for one of the other 11 presidential candidates. In January, about 1,800 students voted in the primary straw poll.

The straw poll was sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha — a political science honor society — the Honors College and Student Government. The poll was purposely held Monday to coincide with the first day of early voting.

“The purpose of the straw poll was to see how USF students will vote in the election and also to educate them on the amendments,” said Pi Sigma Alpha President Jeff Heller.

Lee Farrell, a sophomore majoring in computer science, said he voted for Obama because he wanted a president who can deliver what the people want.

“What I look for in a politician is for them to not just take a stance on an issues and stay with that no matter what happens, but rather bend to the will of the people because they are there to represent us,” he said.

Kristina Cooney, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, voted for McCain.

“I chose McCain because I like his beliefs more,” she said.

In addition to picking the president, students also voted on the six amendments that will appear on the ballot Nov. 4.

For four of the six amendments, students felt as if they did not know enough to make an informed decision. These amendments were Amendment 1, which deals with property rights for aliens ineligible for U.S. citizenship; Amendment 3, which prohibits certain changes to residential property from being considered in property value assessments for ad valorem tax purposes; Amendment 4, which involves property tax exemptions for conserved land; and Amendment 6, which addresses the assessment of working waterfront property based upon current use.

Students did voice their opinion on the gay marriage amendment, with 58 percent voting for the state to recognize only marriages or unions occurring between a man and woman. Additionally, 44 percent of students voted “yes” on Amendment 8, which would allow counties to levy local sales taxes to benefit community colleges.

Shawna Feinman, a sophomore majoring in environmental science, did not vote with the majority of her peers when it came to community colleges.

“I voted no because there are already students paying tuition and I don’t see how taxpayers should be responsible for education in that way,” she said.

In an actual election, these amendments would not have passed, since Florida law designates that an amendment must receive at least a 60-percent approval rate before it can be ratified.

Political science professor and Pi Sigma Alpha adviser Susan MacManus said she hopes students will educate themselves about the amendments between now and election day.

“We always like to put the amendments on the ballot so that people can learn whether they understand them, and if they don’t they still have time to inform themselves before they vote,” MacManus said.

Jennifer Wedebrock, a freshman majoring in chemical engineering, volunteereed in the straw poll through the Honors College. The straw poll is a good way to encourage people to vote, she said.

“It’s a really important election with a lot of important issues, like the economy,” Wedebrock said. “I think it is really important for students to vote and make a difference as young people.”

The straw poll is meant to initiate interest and affirm the importance of the presidential election to the student body, MacManus said.

“It educates the community at large about the enthusiasm for young voters this election cycle,” she said. “So many forecasters have predicted that this election could turn on young people’s turnout.”

Students can participate in early voting for the presidential election now. To find a local polling station, visit the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Web site at votehillsborough.org. Students who are not registered to vote in Hillsborough County can find their polling stations by logging on to their county’s supervisor of elections Web site.