For primary election day, the Marshall Student Center (MSC) hosted a mostly empty polling site despite efforts to raise attendance.
The precinct, which encompasses the USF campus, saw a turn out far lower than the county’s average of 18.89 percent. The MSC polling site saw a total of 20 out of the 618 people registered to vote within the area, according to the Supervisor of Elections website.
“Turnout on college campuses, USF included, is usually very low for a primary held in August for a number of reasons,” Susan MacManus, USF professor of political science and political analyst, said. “First of all, people are just getting back to school. Secondly, very few college students really know much about primary elections and specifically state and local elections which are, of course, a lot of what was on the ballot.”
During fall move-in, the Supervisor of Elections office distributed flyers to residents with information concerning how to register to vote and have been handing out more around campus over the past few weeks, according to Director of Communications Gerri Kramer.
The flyers included information about registering to vote in Florida, updating address information, requesting an absentee ballot and times of operation for the MSC polling site.
“You really have to make sure people understand why they’re voting,” MacManus said. “You have to make it very relevant to students on campus. The bottom line is that some of these state legislative contests, these people will be voting on whether tuition goes up or not … the relevance to a young voter is critical because if they’re not aware of what the office does but if there’s an issue that they can connect with then that obviously can help turnout.”
While there was still a low turnout, more people are expected to show up for the November elections. According to MacManus, this is at least in part because students understand the president’s role.
“You have much higher turn out by young voters in a presidential general election than in a primary because so many people don’t know what primaries do and they don’t know offices are on it,” she said. “Many of them are just gotten back to school, some people who are on the roles who have graduated probably haven’t reregistered somewhere else yet … there’s many reasons why it looks so bad and it is so bad.”
According to Kramer, voting registration ends Oct. 11 for the November election but those already registered can change their address up until voting day.