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Students turned out and turned away on Election Day

Confusion surrounded on-campus polling locations Tuesday, as many students lined up expecting to vote, but were unable to do so.

Instead, many students were sent away and told they would be unable to vote because they did not live on or near campus.

In an article in The Oracle on Tuesday, Frank Hernandez, a graduate student majoring in education and public policy and Student Government (SG) director of Governmental Affairs, said “students who are registered voters can still change their precinct today at any voting location.”

This information was verified by Florida statute 101.045.2.a, which states that “an elector who moves from the precinct in which the elector is registered may be permitted to vote in the precinct to which he or she has moved … provided such elector completes a (change of legal residence of registered voter) form.”

However, many students, including Jessica Maltman, a senior majoring in communications, went to the Marshall Student Center (MSC) thinking they could vote, even though they were not registered in the USF precinct, and were turned away at the polls.

“I’m an American citizen, I’m an adult and I vote because I intend to encourage my future,” Maltman said. “I think all (of) our votes count, so this kind of upsets me because I strongly believe in voting, and I was just turned down.”

She said she was handed a flier in the MSC last week that said “Vote.”

“I asked them if I could vote here even though I’m supposed to vote in west Hillsborough,” Maltman said. “And, they said I should be fine. I mean, I thought I could believe my fellow students who were passing out voting fliers.”

Confusion is “typical of any election,” Hernandez said.

“It’s nothing new for students to show up at the wrong place,” he said. “People assume they can vote (at any polling place).”

Students who showed up and were not registered for either precinct 352 or 353, at the MSC, or precinct 641, at the Hillel Jewish Student Center, were handed a card with the location of the correct address where they are qualified to vote.

Along with students not being able to vote on campus, many students were sent to multiple polling locations, to find their correct precinct.

Danielle Blyden, a recent USF alumna and resident of Tampa Palms, said she voted on-campus in the 2008 presidential election and didn’t understand why she couldn’t vote there this time.

“It’s pissing me off right now because I want to vote,” Blyden said. “I’m not from Tampa. They should understand that a lot of students who go to USF aren’t from Tampa. I’m gonna try and vote, but this is my second time trying to vote. I went to the library in Temple Terrace first, then came here. Now, I’m going to the church on Bruce B Downs.”

Christina Hughes, a junior majoring in marketing economics and a member of the Florida African American and Caribbean Empowerment Alliance and SG, also had problems with voting, even after both organizations she’s involved with encouraged on-campus voting.

“I was told you had to live in the county and go to school here, but they were not clear that you have to live on campus to vote here,” Hughes said.

As a resident in Campus Lodge off Livingston Avenue, she said she wanted to vote on campus because it was “more convenient,” and she had heard in an SG Senate meeting that the polls were in jeopardy of being revoked if voter turnout wasn’t high.

There doesn’t seem to be a clear solution to fix these voting problems, but Hernandez said, there would be less hassle if USF hosted an early voting site.

“I think the key is an early voter station,” Hernandez said. “It would be more convenient for students, (since their schedules are very time crunched).”

Having an early voting site would allow people to vote at the location, regardless of what precinct they are registered for, as long as they are registered in Hillsborough County, Hernandez said.

Despite voting problems, election results surprised some voters and political analysts.

Republican candidate Marco Rubio won the U.S. Senate seat with 50 percent of the vote, and as of press time, the gubernatorial race did not have a confirmed winner. Also, the Hillsborough County transportation tax referendum failed to pass with 58 percent opposed.

Overall, Hernandez said campus voting “turned out well.”

“The clerks (helped) out accordingly (with directing students to their correct polling station),” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of ‘I Voted’ stickers, and it makes me feel good. It’s a nice thing to see.”