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Florida primary polls open, voting locations on campus

A week after the NBC Republican Candidates Presidential Debate took stage in USF’s Theatre I, another political event will be held on campus today: the state’s primary.

Two polling sites for Florida’s Republicanpresidential primary availablein the Marshall Student Center (MSC) serve Hillsborough County voters in precincts 352 and 353.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday shows Mitt Romney as the primary’s frontrunner with 43 percent of projected votes, compared to 29 percent for Newt Gingrich and 11 percent for Ron Paul. Romney drops to 37 percent with 18- to 49-year-olds, with Gingrich at 30 percent and Paul at 17 percent.

Voters in today’s election must have been pre-registered as Republican in Florida by Jan. 3 because of the state’s closed primary laws that allow only party members to vote on the primary ballots.

However, Hillsborough elections spokesman Travis Abercrombie said that allregistered voters in Temple Terrace may still vote today on a local referendum. The referendum is concerning tax exemptions to new and expanding businesses “to encourage economic development and establish new jobs,” according to a Temple Terrace sample ballot.

Romeo Russell, a senior majoring in political science and president of USF College Republicans, said he has already voted in the primary in a different precinct through early voting.

The two MSC pollingsites and the precincts they represent rarely seeoverwhelming turnouts. During last year’s mayoral election, only seven out of the1,422 registered voters cast their ballots at the USFpolling sites – giving the sites the lowest voter turnouts in all of Tampa.

Abercrombie said multiple factors play into voter turnout.

“On Election Day, voters have to vote in their specific precincts, so just because it’s closer to them, they may have registered somewhere else as a polling location,” he said.

Yet the low voter turnout is partially due to the agedemographic the area serves, USF political science professor J. Edwin Benton said.

“College people are leastlikely to vote,” he said. “Statistics show (it), and I don’t think it’ll ever change.”

Benton said voterapathy among college studentsis often a back-and-forth game played with negligent politicians.

“While they may never openly admit to writing off the young vote, (candidates) can still do that,” he said.

As students age, Benton said, politics will take on a greater role in their lives.

“Young people just haven’t had the kind of experiences that makes voting of relevance to them,” he said. “Many of them are not married nor have children. For the most part, young people work (part-time jobs) and haven’t got to the point where they’re ticked off about their hard-earned money taken away in taxes.”

Yet. Russell said voting is a duty of all citizens, and college students are just another part of that population.

“Voting is the basic civic duty that every citizen in this country has, and it’s important for us to exercise our right to vote in order to keep our democracy going,” he said.

Polls will be open from7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The College Republicans will host a watch party for the primary results at 7:30 p.m. in MSC 3708.