The feverish atmosphere that currently has a hold on the nation hasn’t stopped at USF. Students are making plans they wouldn’t normally make for how they’re going to spend Election Day.
Polarization between the two presidential candidates has wrought an intense atmosphere for U.S. citizens everywhere, and USF students are no exception. Different kinds of anxieties have come to the forefront of election-related conversations that haven’t been as relevant as in past elections.
These anxieties aren’t just about who will be the next president — concerns about when the result will be finalized, civil unrest and election fraud have all been expressed by students.
Senior criminology major Brooke Boncosky is worried that election fraud may be a real risk if there is a particular election outcome.
“I think it’s more up in the air. However, I really do think that if Trump wins it will be due to him cheating and/or voter fraud,” said Boncosky. “I think too many people want him to be out of office and are done with his BS for him to get fairly re-elected.”
More uncertainties surround election results due to the surge in mail-in voting. Florida’s mail-in votes for the primary elections were between 40.1% and 60% of the total number of votes in the elections, according to a graphic by Pew Research Center.
There still remain students who have yet to vote.
“As of now, my plan is to vote in the morning and hang out with a couple friends at my place to watch the results,” said junior chemical engineering major Mason Perlman.
Watching the results is usually a daylong event anyway, but with only some states allowed to count mail-in ballots prior to Election Day like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, questions have been raised regarding how soon results will be available compared to past elections. These states are under the eye of some students due to their status as swing states.
“I think it will definitely [be] an interesting evening with all of the media outlets stating that there won’t be a winner announced on [Tuesday] night, as we are accustomed to,” said senior political science major William McMahon. “I expect [President Donald Trump] to be announced the winner before the night ends.”
All of these factors have ruminated in students’ minds, especially in an election that many have deemed high stakes. Many are making specific plans for Tuesday night to best accommodate their mental health concerns.
“I will be staying at my cousin’s house in Wesley Chapel, away from the USF area,” said junior public health major Amanda Suarez. “I plan on taking two melatonin and going to sleep. My anxiety does not need the stress that election night will most definitely create.”
Some are more troubled about what will come in the aftermath of finalized election results, with society coming fresh out of a period of public unrest in response to several incidents of police brutality and comments made by Trump at the first presidential debate that some have deemed incendiary.
“I think that no matter how this election turns out, there is going to be uproar from either side,” said Boncosky. “I definitely plan on staying in my apartment for a few days because I don’t want to end up in the middle of a riot.”
Boncosky isn’t the only USF student making plans to avoid the outside world for the next few days.
“I am packing a bag with clothes for a few days to stay at a family member’s house. I do not feel comfortable being near USF [or] an area with rioting in the past,” said Suarez. “I feel like rioting will occur no matter the results. I do not have anything here to protect myself so I just feel safer being out of the area.”
Perlman agrees that public unrest is a possibility, regardless of who is announced as the 46th U.S. president.
“I see civil unrest happening no matter who wins and I am somewhat worried about it,” said Perlman. “I don’t want to say a civil war would break out but it definitely seems like ‘sides’ have already taken form.”
The USF Counseling Center has recognized how the election has created a tense environment for students on top of the anxieties already present from COVID-19 concerns and remote learning adjustments. Until Nov. 6, the center will be providing specific counseling services in the days leading up to and after the election.
“Staff at the Counseling Center are aware this may be a stressful time for USF students, and we have worked to be proactive about meeting their needs,” said Counseling Center Director Scott Strader.
A large portion of these services will include drop-in workshops specifically for “managing election-related stress.”
Student organizations have also been lending a hand in alleviating tensions for Tuesday as well. USF College Democrats have been hosting phone banks to try and help make information on voting more accessible.
“The election has been stressing many, but we have been doing all we can to inform students about voting to ease that stress,” said USF College Democrats membership chairperson Phoenix Macaranas.
USF students may definitely be feeling a weight on their shoulders, with the demographic of 18- to 25-year-olds being the second largest group of voters, according to Supervisor of Elections for Hillsborough County Craig Latimer. The pressure can feel intense, especially with the push and pull between left- and right-leaning ideologies.
“[The climate] is incredibly intense and both sides have zero interest in hearing the other’s views,” said McMahon. “That attitude then trickles down to voters of those parties who prefer to hurl insults instead of listening to each other.”
Most all are looking forward to some sort of relief to the obliviousness that remains not only after the election but in the weeks that follow.
“Though it has been a stressful year, I still hope for the future so long as we vote and we choose unity over division and hope over fear,” said Macaranas.