This story was written by Amy Mariani, The Oracle
For the rest of the week, University of South Florida students can get a free ride to the Temple Terrace Public Library early voting stationcompliments of Congresswoman Kathy Castors campaign and the College Democrats.
Officials from both organizations said their Democratic affiliation shouldnt sway voters to vote one way or another.
Were not telling them how to vote, said Castor, who is up for re-election. Part of our campaign is to make it as convenient and easy as possible.
Political analyst and professor Susan MacManus said college students are too savvy to be swayed into voting for a certain candidate, especially if theyre voting early.
The students who take advantage of early voting, a huge portion of them already want to vote, she said. Early voters pretty much have their minds made up because theyve decided to vote early.
The Castor campaign paid about $2,000 to rent the Bull Runner shuttles, said Keri Eisenbeis, volunteer for the Castor campaign. The buses will leave from the Marshall Student Center on Wednesday and Friday between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Matt Coppens, president of the College Democrats, said the goal of the shuttles is to capture the youth vote, not push a political agenda.
Its open to anyones political affiliation, he said. Weve also invited our College Republicans as well.
The College Republicans said they were invited to use the shuttle bus to vote and will be promoting it within their own organization. They will not be providing their own shuttle buses because of the cost, said Treasurer Billy Schmidt.
Republican students, however, shouldnt feel discouraged about using the buses to get to the polls.
Both camps see it as a public service, MacManus said. Regardless of how they get to the poll, the importance is getting there.
Once on the bus, a student may be asked if he or she is supporting Democratic candidate Barack Obama and given a recommendation sheet on how to vote, Coppens said.
One thing the College Democrats are advocating, however, is to vote no on Amendment 2. This amendment would restrict the definition of marriage to be between one man and one woman.
Coppens said this is a nonpartisan issue, and MacManus agreed, saying that despite the organizers influence she doesnt feel students will be swayed by it.
Students will either discount it or not, she said.
Senior biomedical science major Alberto Aguilera said he wanted to vote early this election season because last season the lines were horrible.
Its easier to vote this week, he said.
The shuttle takes students to the Temple Terrace Public Library, located off 56th Street, and will return them to campus when they are finished voting. Once at the polls, students should expect to wait about an hour and a half before they can cast their vote, said clerk Levi Carter.
Though she had to wait longer than expected, freshman Najja Jackson said she would rather have waited this long than vote on Nov. 4.
I dont want to let anything stop me, said the biomedical science major, explaining that voting early was convenient and easy for her since she doesnt own a car.
Once at the polling station Monday, students were met with Democratic political advertisements and Democratic campaign workers. These were at least 100 feet away from the polling station, as legally required, said poll worker Al Greer.
One student voter said he didnt see any Republican representation as he waited more than an hour and a half to vote.
Its almost ironic, said Jos Woods, a computer programmingsophomore. Its kind of a sign of what people are feeling.
Ken Mayo, coordinator for the Temple Terrace district of the Hillsborough County Republican Party, said the Republicans just didnt have many people out there Monday, but on other days there are more Republicans than Democrats.
You caught us on a day where we [had] less people, he said.
MacManus said she doesnt think the reduced Republican presence will influence voters.
Im not as concerned about the bias factor, knowing the ability of our students to understand campaigns and what theyre about, she said.