Despite low overall voting rates in the 2016 presidential election, UF saw an increase in student voters.
The Bob Graham Center for Public Service released a campus report comparing the voting rates of UF students with students in other public research institutions Friday. The report found nearly 5,000 more UF students came out to vote in the 2016 presidential election than in the 2012 election, a voting rate increase of 3.5 percent.
“I believe that what we’re seeing, especially amongst our younger voters, you’re starting to see more and more who are very active and are seeking to make a difference and a change,” said Kevin Baron, the civic engagement coordinator for the Graham Center.
UF’s 2016 voting rate of 64.2 percent surpassed the overall voting rate of other public research institutions, which is 51.9 percent.
Baron said the Graham Center helped increase voter participation by providing students with free educational materials, hosting debate watch parties and holding public forums.
Students were given nonpartisan guides and information about registering to vote.
“When you create the space for students in the community to feel more involved, they do get more involved, and they become more active, and they turn out to vote,” Baron said.
Baron said one of the biggest obstacles for UF students to vote was transportation. He said students without cars may be discouraged by long bus rides or having to walk far off campus to vote.
With the help of UF’s Office of the Provost, the Graham Center provided more than 125 students with free transportation to the office of the supervisor of elections during the early voting period.
Baron said a larger population of students would have the opportunity to vote if UF and other campuses were allowed to be early voting locations.
Baron and the ambassadors of the Andrew Goodman Foundation are in the early stages of amending a law that prohibits college campuses from being early voting locations, he said.
Megan Newsome, the team leader for the Vote Everywhere ambassadors, said the bill needs to be co-sponsored for it to be pushed in the upcoming legislative session.
“We have reached out to a few representatives to get that sponsor, and we have surprisingly less backlash than we would’ve thought,” the 21-year-old said. “I think we’ll be able to convince representatives that this is a common sense change to help the voters the most.”
Newsome, a UF astronomy and astrophysics senior, said the amendment is something simple but has a large impact on who comes out to vote.
“It’s one of those things that’s honestly a really small change in terms of wording and how it’s addressed, but has such huge impact,” she said. “It’ll enable hundreds of thousands of student voters across the state to have great accessibility to the polls.”