New UCF district map empowers student vote
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Updated: Sunday, March 18, 2012 18:03
With more than 58,000 students, UCF is the largest university in Florida and the second largest in the country. We are our own mini-city, and if all of our students registered to vote in Orlando and each of them voted in the next election, this campus would become the change that we’ve all been looking for. After all, we’re located in the swing area of the swing state — how could we not have an impact?
Well, there’s another element to this game of politics and it’s called districts. Districts are essentially territorial divisions within a state drawn by a committee to serve as a constituency for an elected official. Districts are redrawn by their respected committees every 10 years to coincide with new census data. This system sounds fair and simple, but it quickly becomes one-sided thanks to an action called gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is the manipulation of districts by legislatures; it’s typically done in an effort to favor an incumbent or one political party. Both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of gerrymandering, which is probably why back in 2010, 63 percent of Floridians voted in favor of two fair district amendments known as Amendments 5 and 6, according to the Associated Press.
Why am I telling you this? Well, for the last 10 years, UCF has been split into two State House districts: District 35 and 33. This means that our student population has been divided in two, diminishing our voting power, splitting our votes and making voting – and running a campaign – ever more complicated.
Well, today I have some good news for you. The new 2012 maps have been drafted, approved and released from the legislature. Granted, these maps will not be official until the courts approve them, but as of now, the main UCF campus is finally under one district. This new district is No. 49 and stretches from Semoran Boulevard, through UCF and toward parts of Avalon Park. The demographics within this district, much like our student body, are incredibly diverse. About half of the population is white while 31 percent is Hispanic, and 18 percent are 20 to 24 years of age, according to a demographic profile at FLSenate.gov.
That age demographic is made of students. It’s incredibly important that we not only vote in this election come November, but also within the primaries this August. On the Democrat side, two candidates have already filed to run for District 49. Both are UCF graduates who are incredibly involved within the progressive community. One is Shayan Elahi, a trial lawyer specializing in civil rights who has lived within the district for nearly 23 years. He is well known for his pro-bono work for groups such as Food Not Bombs and Occupy Orlando.
Then we have Joe Saunders, an openly gay 28-year-old activist who has been Equality Florida’s State Field Director since 2005. Saunders is also well known across the state and hopes to become Tallahassee’s next “strong progressive” voice, according to Steve Blanchard at watermarkonline.com.
Neither candidate has announced their platforms, but the students of UCF will be playing a huge role in who wins their primary and this district. Whether you lean to the left or lean to the right, it is incredibly important that you vote this year. Our district was split into two for the last decade because Tallahassee was scared of what our votes would do. Now it’s time to show them exactly what we’re made of.