The Central Florida Future talked to members of the UCF community on March 15 as they left the polls after voting in the presidential primary. Daniela Marin, Central Florida Future
As a sea of students flooded the Pegasus Ballroom on March 15 to see Bill Nye speak, it seemed like only a handful trickled into the on-campus polling station to cast their votes for presidential nominees.
But by the time the polling station closed at 7 p.m., 450 votes had been cast, accounting for 71 percent of all ballots counted in precinct 538, which represents UCF.
The polling station opened at 7 a.m. at The Venue adjacent to the CFE Arena and drew in voters hoping to have their voices heard in the first round of this year’s presidential election.
Results for the on-campus polling station won’t be available until Thursday, but republican front-runner Donald Trump and democratic nominee Hillary Clinton dominated Florida as a whole. Trump won 40 percent of the vote in Orange County and Clinton took 63 percent, according to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio suspended his campaign after a poor showing in his home state.
In Florida, the primary election system is closed and requires voters to be registered with a political party at least a month in advance in order to participate.
For UCF junior Jamie Caldaro, a forensic science student, the closed system does not make the primaries any less important.
“Once you get to the presidential election, you’re kind of stuck,” Caldaro said. “You should cast your opinion on what candidate you want from your party before you get to the big election. You really don’t have a reason to complain if you didn’t cast your vote in the primaries.”
Visiting instructor Megan Lambert said she wrapped up all of her Tuesday classes by reminding her students of the importance of voting, emphasizing the impact of participating in the primaries.
“This presidential election is really crucial, so picking the best candidate for both parties at this stage of the game is really important,” she said. “If people aren’t a fan of either of the two people it comes down to, it can be really problematic later on.”
As a first-year instructor, Lambert said her frequent interactions with first-time voters have allowed her to gauge political trends.
“I feel like there’s really a divide,” she said. “Students tend to be either really informed and excited, or not aware that this is a process yet since the big election isn’t until November.”
Women’s rights, social programs and medical marijuana were among the top platform issues that motivated Caldaro to cast her vote for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
John Massarda, an integrated business student who started voting when he was 18 years old, said that while he was raised Republican, he went to the polls with mixed feelings.
“I’m not really feeling the Republican party right now,” he said. “Trump is at the top of my hate list … He’s not the suitable person to be president, I feel, of our country."
However, Massadra said he continues to feel strongly about his civic duty to participate in elections.
“Everyone changes their moral views over time as you grow up, you change your views on life, and I feel like now I’m more independent,” he said. “We’re a part of our future, that’s how I feel, and if you really think like that, then you’re going to care about who is our next president.”
Meanwhile, first-time voter and hospitality freshman Willow Diamandis cast his vote Tuesday with a clear focus.
“Although I won’t say who I voted for, I will say that I don’t support Donald Trump at all,” he said. “I feel like he’s not here for me at all, and that is definitely one reason that I came out here to vote today, to ensure my future is safe.”
Daniela Marin is the Entertainment Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @dan__marin or email her at DanielaM@CentralFloridaFuture.com.