Clinton, McCain Win Florida Primaries

This story was written by Amy Mariani And Candace Braun, The Oracle
Voters in the University of South Florida area mirrored those across the state when they picked Hillary Clinton and John McCain as their presidential candidates in Florida's primary and approved Amendment 1.

Though 410 people are registered to vote at Precinct 353, 69 voted at the Marshall Center polling station Tuesday, according to statistics from the Hillsborough County supervisor of elections office.

Precinct 353 stretches from the area from Fowler Avenue to Fletcher Avenue and from Bruce B. Downs Boulevard to 50th Street. Out of these 69 voters, 53 responded to an Oracle exit poll.

The exit poll was conducted by Oracle writers during the precinct's voting time slot, which lasted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. As voters left the voting area, they were asked by a writer to contribute to the poll by revealing for whom they voted and how they voted on Amendment 1. Forty-seven partisan registered voters and six independently registered voters contributed to the poll. The six independents were not allowed to vote for a candidate in the primary under Florida voter registration laws.

Amendment 1 was approved by a slim vote of 28 to 25 at precinct 353. At the state level, the amendment reached the required two-thirds vote with 65 percent.

This exit poll is not scientifically precise because of its small sample size - exit polls typically require at least 100 participants, and fewer showed up at the Marshall Center - but rather demonstrates how people in the USF area voted.

The low turnout of voters doesn't account for those who attempted to vote at the station and couldn't, however.

"Three times as many students showed up to vote today than those who actually could," said election clerk Jack Piche. "Many thought that just because they go to school here they can vote here, but they must vote at the precinct they registered with."

Piche said that most of the morning was spent directing people to their proper precincts, which caused some frustration among students and staff.

For one student, the issue wasn't that he visited the wrong precinct, but that he wasn't given the option of voting for a candidate despite being a registered Republican.

"I voted on Amendment 1, and right when I expected to vote on a candidate, my card popped out and the machine said I was done," physical therapy student Noah Dove said. "I rushed over here from work on Waters Avenue just to make sure I could vote for Ron Paul, and then I couldn't. It was upsetting."

Though Dove said he registered as a Republican and voted in the 2006 midterm elections, Piche said precinct records had Dove listed as an independent, and that's why he wasn't able to vote on a candidate. Dove wondered whether the issue was the result of a glitch in the voting machine.

"There was nothing wrong with the voting machine," Piche said. "According to our records, he's nonpartisan. He might've changed his status and didn't remember."

Piche also said that the precinct had no problems with the voting machines throughout the station's 12-hour run. Despite the machines' smooth operation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the primary marked the last time that touch-screen voting machines would be used in the state of Florida. Starting with the state elections, the touch-screen machines will be replaced with optical scan versions.

Overall, less than 20 percent of registered voters at Precinct 353 voted in the primary, according to the supervisor of elections' office. Meanwhile, 34.73 percent voted across Hillsborough County when 331 of the 361 precincts in the county had reported results, a number expected to rise when all results are in.

"Although 18.54 percent is below the county's average, we're pleased with the results because we se room for this precinct's turnout to grow," said Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson.

The voting pattern on campus, however, does not reflect national patterns. Distinguished professor of political science, Susan MacManus, said younger voters usually have different reasons for supporting candidates than older voters.

"Younger voters differ from older voters in their ideological leanings and in their issue preferences. And that's been showing up in all the national polls as well as in Florida," she said.

The difference is fueled by education and ideology rather than demographics. Younger and older voters tend to disagree on issue priority and solutions, MacManus said.

"The generations often agree on what are the top issues, but they often disagree on which ones should be addressed first and how they should be addressed," she said.
© 2008 The Oracle via U-WIRE
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