Election Day comes early

Campaign signs sit outside of a polling station on Fowler Avenue on Aug. 30, during the primary elections. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/JACKIE BENITEZ

Election Day is coming early to campus as ballot boxes will be set up across campus today for this year’s USF straw poll.

The mock election is being put on by Pi Sigma Alpha political science honor society, the Honors College and Student Government (SG). Five polling stations will be set up at the Marshall Student Center, Cooper Hall, the Muma College of Business, the Library and Campus Recreation from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

There will also be online polling via a form created by SG on BullSync. The online polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

“The hours are a little different from what we’ll be polling on campus but that’s only because we need to look through all the forms and take the information down quicker than we would with scantrons, which is what we’ll be using (on campus),” Marianne Mendoza, director of government affairs for SG, said.

Polls are open to everyone and ballots are anonymously done via scantron. The ballot is one page and will include the presidential and senatorial races, as well as all the amendments that will be on the actual ballot in November, including the amendment on solar power and on medicinal marijuana. 

The presidential race will include Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, as well as Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

“We are the only university in Florida that has done this every election cycle, both presidential and gubernatorial, for a long time,” Susan MacManus, national political analyst and USF political science professor, said of the poll that has been taking place annually for 20 years at USF.

The goals are to create excitement about the election, call attention to the amendments and show the public that millennials care about politics, MacManus said.

“Obviously, the future of our country’s democracy depends on the involvement of young people in politics,” she said. “That’s the long term goal, but in the short term, it’s to show people outside the university that millennials do care about politics and are informed about elections. And then for on campus, it’s designed to create a lot of enthusiasm and discussion among students about the election.”

Mendoza said she is curious to see how millennials vote in the straw poll.

“I think, just as millennials, we’re kind of an unprecedented generation, so it’s really interesting to see how our upbringing has affected the way that we vote,” she said. “The whole initiative in general is just meant to see how students throughout the years … vote and really figure out why that is.”  

In past elections, the USF straw poll has been a good predictor of the actual election, according to MacManus. The role of millennials in this November’s election is different, however, because of the ability the group has to swing the election.

“Millennials do have the power to swing the election,” she said. “They now make (up) 26 percent of Florida’s registered voters.”

MacManus said she doesn’t know at this point what turnout will be for the straw poll, but there has been a high interest level in the past. She encouraged students to come out and vote in the straw poll and in the main election.

“Well, they can do it easily,” MacManus said. “There’ll be lots of places. All they have to do is take a clipboard and a pencil, and it’ll take them less than a couple minutes to go through it and just weigh in on their opinion. 

“They may not talk about politics … but it’s their chance to voice how they feel about it and believe me, candidates do look at the millennial vote this year very carefully.”

Mendoza said she would urge students to come out for the election in November as well, stressing that every vote counts.

“Just one vote (from each person) adds up to a million,” Mendoza said. “Every vote really does count.”