CNJ 216: Election Day Coverage

CNJ 216 Fall 2010 Assignment: Election Day Coverage

Unlike 2008, University of Miami students wishing to cast their votes in the Florida midterm election did not have to worry about long lines and crowded polls Tuesday at the Bank United Center.

Just before noon, the on-campus polling center, which serves residents of each of the University’s five residence halls, remained quiet. It was quite a different scene than the same day, two years ago, when the facility was so crowded that University President Donna Shalala personally had pizza delivered to the hundreds of students waiting at the polls late into the evening.

Junior Vincent Foster, chair of the newly formed Student Government Voter Registration Committee, did not expect the atmosphere to change much throughout the day.

“There are no issues as big as ‘the first black president’ or the gay marriage amendment in 2008,” he explained, justifying low student enthusiasm this year. “People don’t even know who’s running, and the amendments on the ballot aren’t big enough that the average student would know about them without doing research.”

Foster, an active member of College Republicans and a Political Science major, took it upon himself to get Student Government more involved with the election this year. Along with several other student organizations, his SG Voter Registration Committee actively handed out stickers and pens around campus several times a week, as early as the first day of new student orientation in late August.

The goal was to register 2010 new voters in time for Tuesday’s midterm; only 687 returned completed forms to the Office of Student Affairs by the deadline.

Despite failure to reach the goal, Foster remained optimistic about the political spirit on campus, citing an especially active semester for College Republicans and College Democrats, who hosted a mock debate to educate students about the election two weeks ago.

“Health care and immigration- those are two of the big issues that the politically active are concerned about right now,” he said. “For example, [Florida governor candidate] Rick Scott wants to bring the Arizona immigration laws to Florida. I support that.”

Originally, from North Carolina, Foster planned to skip his 3:30 class in order to vote himself. Though he used his local address to register to vote in Florida, not all students who voted did the same. Many, such as sophomore Ryan Aquilina of Michigan, mailed absentee ballots to their home states.

“I love elections and campaigns,” Aquilina said of his eagerness to stay politically active at home. “It’s like watching a chess match. It’s just disappointing that, this year, there really was no energizing candidate to get more young people excited.”

Students who did take the time vote Tuesday at least seemed to genuinely care about the election and their role in it. Some even remained stationed outside the Bank United Center after leaving the polls to distribute information about the candidates to other voters- and, though turnout was low, the Office of Student Affairs delivered pizza at noon, as promised.

“We often fail to realize the importance of midterm elections, but ultimately, what is decided today will decide basic American politics for the next two years,” explained junior Michael Kaplan after casting his vote. The history major could not help but to smile as he explained his motivation for stopping by the Bank United Center before his 12:30 class.

 “There is always a chance for change, and I think that it’s our civic duty to vote on both the federal and local levels.” he emphasized,” It’s really too bad that more students didn’t feel as passionately this year as they did in 2008. “

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