Coral Gables residents went to the polls on Tuesday to vote for a Group III Commissioner and to decide on two ballot questions. Registration drives on campus at UM in preparation for the presidential election of 2004 had registered almost 1,800 new student voters, most of whom were eligible to vote in the local Coral Gables elections.
“I’m optimistic that students will get involved and vote in the elections,” Dr. Pat Whitely, vice president for Student Affairs, said.
Efforts to lure student voters to the polls included free pizza and soft drinks, publicized by mass emails and flyers around campus and organized by the Get Out the Vote campaign.
“I voted for Anderson,” Morgan Cantrell, freshman, said. “I walked straight inside-it took 30 seconds.”
At 2 p.m. however, roughly halfway into the voting day, only 41 people had voted at the Convocation Center.
“I’m not disappointed because we’ve had a lot of students come out because they’ve received e-mails or seen flyers,” Gilbert Arias, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said.
According to poll workers and the electorate alike, the voting process was quick, with no wait time or lines.
“Even if one person comes out to vote it’s worth it,” Pamela Schiess, director of Get Out the Vote, said. “I don’t know if anyone’s come out to vote in local elections before.”
Neither Commissioner Maria Anderson nor her rival for office, Felix Pardo, visited UM prior to the election.
“I ran in 2001 for my first term and I had a lot of volunteers that were students,” Anderson said.
No public efforts to recruit support for this week’s election were made from either candidate.
Miami-Dade statistics show that 57 percent of people that have historically voted at the Convocation Center are between the ages of 18 and 20, suggesting that most voters at the precinct are likely to be UM students.
Many students feel uninvolved in the local politics of Coral Gables, especially those attending UM who are not permanent residents of the area.
“These types of elections have an expected low turnout,” Arias said. “[In the national elections] the issues are a lot more important, and students feel a connection with them.”
Plans are on the agenda to continue the effort next year, according to Pete Maki, Student Government president.
“We’ll aim higher next year,” Maki said. “I’d love to see a student run for city commissioner in two years. It’s something the bigger schools around the country have been able to do.”
|– Incumbent Commissioner Maria Anderson retained her seat, winning 56 percent of the vote.
– Ballot question No. 1, increasing the mayor’s term to four years from two, passed.
– Ballot question No. 2, increasing the threshold for formal bids on public projects to $25,000 from $7,500, passed.
Amy S. Lawrence can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.