South Florida is generally accustomed to the political spotlight, with events such as the Florida recount in 2000 and the presidential debates in 2004 bringing the state to the national attention. But this year, both students and professors have noticed an unusually quiet political atmosphere on campus in the weeks approaching Election Day on Nov. 7.
Midterm elections usually pass by without much attention, but this campaign season sparked much national discussion over the potential loss of Republican control over the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. Such a discourse does not seem to be reflected among UM students.
“Not much has been happening on campus. I haven’t really been paying attention to it,” junior Shelli Galati, said referring to the election activity on campus. Galati plans on voting absentee in the upcoming election.
Fareed Adams, a sophomore, is not a registered voter, is not active in politics and is not planning on voting in upcoming election. He said that he has not been politically involved because he lacks the time and he simply has not given it much thought.
His reason why 18 to 24 year-olds do not vote in the U.S.: “They just don’t care, really.”
Jonathan West, the director of the Master’s of Public Administration program and a professor in the political science department, agreed that the university appears quiet before this major election.
“Clearly there [was] buzz for the debates, but these elections don’t seem to ignite here as much,” West said. “Maybe because Florida is not as competitive as other states and has not received as much publicity.”
Casey Klofstad, an assistant professor in the political science department, teaches POL 599 UX, a special topics course titled Electoral Behavior. He said that the lack of interest in the political system is part of a continuing cycle of disengagement stemming from the 1970s as a result of the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War.
He added that an increase in news media and a media bias towards revealing negativity in the government causes people to disassociate themselves from the political process.
Yet since the last presidential election, marked by the popular “Vote or Die” movement across college campuses, Klofstad said there has been an increase in voter participation among college students.
“Mobilization has been seen to increase benefits for students to vote,” Klofstad said. “Campaigns such as ‘Vote or Die’ and ‘Rock the Vote’ have changed the negative aspect of voting into a good thing.”
Students who are motivated to vote are making use of the Internet to help facilitate the process of voter registration. Some districts-such as in Arizona, D.C. and Florida-now allow for online submission of online absentee voting requests via email or website forms. “I just printed out an absentee ballot like an hour ago,” sophomore Brittany McFadden said. “I live in California and I really wanted to vote in this election.”
McFadden described the process of obtaining an absentee ballot as “pretty difficult.” She used the website, RocktheVote.com, a site geared towards encouraging students and other young people to vote, to help her understand the rules and deadlines pertaining to her state.
“The campus [atmosphere] did not really influence my decision to vote absentee,” she said. “I would like to see the [university] encourage students to get involved in elections.”
Political organizations on campus, such as the UM Young and College Democrats and the UM College Republicans have set up tables in the Breezeway, answering questions and advertising for their club activities.
“We were out there yesterday, and if anyone out there looks interested we will give them the [registration] form and help them with the voting process,” said Christie Miller, first vice-chair of the College Republicans.
She explained that all of the members of College Republicans have registered themselves absentee regardless of residency, in order to maximize their “get out the vote” activity on Election Day.
Livia Chaykin, president of the UM Democrats, said she has witnessed an increase in interest on campus, citing a growing attendance to the organization’s meetings every other week and a large turnout for Howard Dean’s Oct. 10 visit to campus.
“I am proud to boast an increased membership consisting of highly