by Juliana Walter
Florida is preparing for the upcoming Presidential primaries, and so are some students at The University of Tampa.
National voting participation statistics for college students have risen from around 20% in 2014 to over 40% in 2018, according to National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) conducted by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University. Many organizations around campus, such as College Democrats and College Republicans, have been encouraging students to register to vote and specifically with a party.
Since Florida has closed primary elections coming up on Tuesday, Mar. 17, voters must be registered with a party to participate. Tuesday, Feb. 18, marked the last day in which Florida state voters could register in order to vote in primaries.
“It’s important for students to vote, even in the primaries,” said sophomore finance major, Ally Charne. “A lot of my friends say they don’t vote since this isn’t their home state but there’s a lot of resources to make sure you can cast a ballot.”
There are multiple organizations on UT’s campus that are encouraging students to participate in the upcoming 2020 primaries and general election. One of these is the College Democrat Organization. Kate Beeken, a senior political science major, is the president of the club.
“Being able to vote in a primary election is a vital part of American Democracy,” said Beeken. “As an organization, we have set a goal of 225 democratic voters turning out in March, which is approximately 38% of the students. UT has never shown strong electoral participation, but we hope that this year we can turn that around.”
The College Democrats do not actively support just one democratic candidate but represent an official caucus of the Florida Democratic Party. Many of the students in UT College Democrats, like Beeken, state that their main goal for the election is a complete change in the presidential administration.
Students like James Houlahan, a sophomore public relations major, also feel the same way. But after keeping up with the recent issues with the Iowa democratic caucus results, he feels unsure about the legitimacy of the rest of the remaining primaries and general election.
“It’s definitely problematic that [the problems with the Iowa caucus] occurred,” said Houlahan. “The conspiracy side of me says it could happen again during election day in November with even greater consequences.”
Aside from concerns with the legitimacy of elections, the majority of students around UT’s campus said they feel most passionate about environmental and social issues, such as gun control, when it comes to the 2020 election. A study done in 2018 by the Panetta Institute for Public Policy found that 55% of college students say that their main concern is creating more gun control policies in the U.S.
Another goal of political clubs around campus is to promote information for students to easily register to vote and participate in elections. For many students, this is also their first time participating in a Presidential election, which has caused some confusion in the registration process. The political science department also sent out multiple global messages to students with registering information as well.
“College Democrats is registering people to vote up until the deadline next week,” said Beeken. “As we get closer to the election, we will be collecting commit to vote cards and reminding students of important dates and information leading up to the election.”
The other dominant political group on campus is the UT College Republicans. They did not respond when The Minaret reached out for an interview.
Juliana Walter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org