Boosting student-voter turnout


Published: Friday, January 25, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 10:16 p.m.

With the presidential primary just days away in Florida, some University of Florida students are researching candidates and gearing up to pencil in their votes on Jan. 29. Others, however, aren't as prepared.

College campuses nationwide are famous for being important political arenas, yet when it comes down to election day, young people are notorious for not showing up to cast their vote, especially in primary elections.

For many college students who are away from home during the elections, it's the difficulty of auiring an absentee ballot from their home county that keeps them away from the polls.

Frank Bracco, director of Chomp the Vote, a UF organization determined to improve student participation in politics, said that while most students say they vote by absentee ballot, it is much more efficient for students simply to change their registration to Alachua County.

"What ends up happening is that students think they're going to vote absentee and they just forget to request (a ballot)," Bracco said.

Zach Moller, president of UF College Democrats, also thinks that students' best option is to change their registration to Alachua County. According to Moller, the state of Florida has a database with all registered voters' information, making it very easy to switch counties.

"A lot of students don't know that they can change their registration on election day," he said.

According to Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter, however, it's not that simple.

Carpenter said that although it is logistically possible to change your legal address on the day of the election, your new address, be it your dorm or college apartment, will then become your permanent legal residence.

Most college students don't feel ready to have their credit card bills, tuition bills and important mailings sent to them at school. In addition, students with local scholarships might lose them if they change their addresses.

"You can't just be registered in Broward County and then decide that you want to vote up here just because you forgot to get an absentee ballot," she said. "You can't take it lightly and move your address back and forth."

As for out-of-state students, their process of registering in Alachua County is more complicated and leaves them with little option than to vote absentee, which can be an issue for many procrastinators.

"The more hoops you have to jump through to do something, the less likely you are to do it," Moller said.

That is why sophomore physical therapy student Lindsay Fleetwood, who is from Edmond, Okla., chose to register in Alachua County.

"Honestly, absentee voting didn't cross my mind," Fleetwood said. "I feel like it's a really long process, so in the end I would probably end up just not voting in the primaries."

Marisa Millhauser, a sophomore marketing student from Coral Springs, is simply putting it off for a while.

"I thought it would be easier to get the absentee ballot rather than registering here, but I actually haven't taken any action to do either," she said, adding that she wouldn't mind not voting in the primary election as long as she was able to vote in the presidential election in November.

Still, the demand for information about voting in the primary is great.

Bracco said that he has received many e-mails from students asking about the registration and absentee voting process, and Moller said students frequently approach him during club meetings to ask the same questions.

Both agree that students are following the election more than ever, but whether or not that knowledge will get them to the polls on Tuesday is yet to be seen.

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