UCF site worst for early-voting turnout
This was the first year UCF provided an early-voting site to the Central Florida community. However, the votes are in, and the Barbara Ying Center is Orange County's slowest early-voting site.
Nationwide voter turnout for the midterm election was the lowest it has been since 1942 with only 36.6 percent, and the UCF area was no exception.
The Barbara Ying Center only received 1,834 voters compared with the second-closest voting site to UCF, the Alafaya Branch Library, which received 7,986.
Voter turnout in Florida and Orange County also sat at the low end of the spectrum with 50.51 percent and 43.25 percent, respectively.
"I believe that the turnout is reflective of the fact that college students are not engaged in the off-year elections," said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles.
He added that voter turnout is always less in an off-election year, and in Florida, that means the governor's race.
Apathy aside, Cowles said UCF offers several unique challenges when it comes to voting, one being its location.
"Voters come from many different counties and the Orange/Seminole County line is on the northern edge of campus," Cowles said. "We had to turn away many voters at the early-voting site because they are required to vote in the county they are registered in."
But even once students registered in the right county, they might have been scratching their heads trying to find the Barbara Ying Center, a building not many students frequent. Other more well-known campus locations were out of the question, however. The Student Union, for example, wouldn't have ample parking, and the CFE Arena had conflicting events going on during early voting.
"The Barbara Ying Center is a great facility for early voting. Much better than many of the sites that state law offers us," Cowles said. "While the turnout was lower than many had hoped, it did reduce the pressure at the Alafaya Library site."
As far as whether or not the Barbara Ying Center will continue to be an early-voting site is unknown.
"We are now starting the process of mapping out early-voting sites for 2016," Cowles said. "I can't say that UCF will have a site until the process is complete."
The site's novelty could be the reason for so few voters, as Mike Ertel, supervisor of elections for Seminole County, said the two newest early-voting sites in Seminole County were also the slowest.
Ertel said that he was satisfied with the coutny's turnout — 55.35 percent compared with 50 percent in 2010. However, he said Seminole County utilizes different methods to increase voter turnout.
"We had the maximum number of early-voting days and increased the number of early-voting sites," Ertel said. "And we promoted [voting] heavily on our Twitter feed."
Another thing that Seminole County did was ask Twitter users to tweet their wait times while they were voting. Ertel said that other voters could see how little the wait time was and would be encouraged to vote.
"I think it really helped us a lot, not hearing from politicians or our office, but from friends," he said.
Looking toward the 2016 presidential election, Cowles said that they will continue to educate college students on where they can register to vote.
This includes whether or not students register to vote in their hometowns or at UCF, and informing students on where their voting precincts are come election day.
"We know overall that voters are more interested in voting by mail or early voting than going to their assigned polling place on Election Day," Cowles said. "In 2014, both the primary and general elections, less voters went to the polls to vote than cast ballots by mail or early voted, [which is] a trend that I think will continue in 2016 and beyond."
Voter Turnout by County:
Osceola: 41.27 percent
Orange: 43.23 percent
Seminole: 55.35 percent