OPINION: UNF early voting site underperforms, but is important nonetheless

Noah Meyer, Opinions Editor

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With midterm elections over (excluding the recount), the Duval County Supervisor of Elections has released voting data and statistics, including the number of voters that used each voting site. Among those sites are the new early voting locations at UNF and Edward Waters College, both established Duval County’s Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan on Sept. 17. There were high hopes for the new early voting sites as they presented the opportunity to get more college students engaged in the democratic process, and with a rising generation seemingly set on drastic change, it was easy to assume these news voting sites would be swamped.

However, this assumption turned out to be entirely incorrect. UNF’s early voting site turned out to have the second worst voter turnout of all early voting locations in Duval—only being better than EWC’s new site. The 3,416 ballots cast at UNF’s early voting site make up a grand total of 0.89% percent of the 383,010 total ballots cast in Duval County—164,679 of which were early voting ballots. It doesn’t take a statistician to note that UNF’s early voting turnout was abysmal—to not even make up a full percent of the total vote is a pathetic performance.

The reasons for the voting site’s poor performance is likely due to it being so new. Many voters likely have attended the same early voting sites for years and either didn’t know or didn’t care that a new location was opened. The argument could be made that many in the UNF area voted via different means, but early voting is the most popular form of voting—the majority of votes came from early voting sites in Duval County, surpassing election day and nearly tripling mail-in ballots. Thus, it’s unlikely that the majority of voters near UNF voted via other means rather than using the early voting site, however, it’s impossible to know for sure. While there was a well-run campaign on campus to make students aware of the early voting site, it is unlikely that similar energy was used to encourage members of the communities surrounding UNF to vote at the new location.

Despite the poor showing of UNF’s new early voting site, the new location is nothing but a positive for both the UNF community and democratic process. While the number of ballots cast was far lower than most other sites, the convenience of providing an early voting location near students helps engage younger voters—a demographic that often fails to show up during elections. Contrary to the beliefs of some groups in America, providing more early voting locations is a healthy way of encouraging Americans to engage politically while not being forced to wait in long lines. The more voting sites there are, the more potential voters can be reached—a fact that anyone who cares about free and open elections can agree on. So, while UNF’s new early voting site made a small showing in the midterm election, it may have also provided the convenience needed to encourage new voters and nonvoters to participate for the first time. No matter how small the impact, the more people have access to voting, and the more fair our elections become.


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