Early voting for UF Student Government elections opened Monday on the second floor of the Reitz Student Union, but few physical signs were posted letting students know about the polling station.
More than 15 masked and distanced students participated in the first day of early voting, which was implemented this year as a safer alternative to the traditional election day due to COVID-19. Students can vote early in the Student Activities and Involvement office on the second floor of Reitz in room 2102 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Friday.
Traditional voting will happen on Oct. 6-7 at six locations across campus. Students can vote for candidates from Gator Party, the current majority, as well as three three new parties: Progressive, Change and Union.
Change tabled outside of the Reitz Union while the early voting poll was open. Party President Colin Solomon said candidates and party members gave students information about the party and early voting.
“We want students to know they can early vote,” he said. “We want students to be informed.”
Some students who voted were unaware of the early voting option before Change Party spoke with them outside the building. The only sign indicating voting was taking place was directly outside the voting location on the second floor. The UF bookstore, food court and other areas where students congregate on the first floor had no signage.
Supervisor of Elections Hayley Price wrote in an email she advertised early voting over social media and through the SG website.
Ritika Malik, a 20-year-old UF microbiology junior, planned to cast an absentee ballot to stay home on the election days before learning about the early voting option.
“I stumbled upon the Change Party and they educated me on what I had to do,” she said. “I walked up the stairs, checked in and voted and they gave me a sticker.”
Even though the early voting went smoothly, Malik said she wished she was more educated on the ballot before casting her vote.
“I wish there was something at UF that educated us on Gator and Change,” Malik said. “I kind of felt like I was voting for strangers.”
Jack Gordon, an 18-year-old UF fiance freshman, wasn’t aware the Student Government election was going on at all before Monday.
“I was leaving Reitz after getting my laptop fixed and Change Party approached me,” he said.
Gordon voted in his first SG election for the Beaty Towers district, he said.
“I figured I might as well decide who’s going to be representing me,” he said.
Melina Michel, a 20-year-old UF chemical engineering junior, went to Reitz Union for Krishna Lunch Monday. She was pulled into early voting by Change Party’s table outside of the student union.
“If we want to see changes around campus, we have to actually try and change things,” she said.
Michel voted for her District E candidate that aligned with her values.
Alexander Delamora, a 19-year-old UF business administration sophomore, voted Monday for the first time in his two years at the university. Before, voting was an inconvenience for him.
“It’s out of the way of what we’re normally doing,” he said.
Delamora went to Reitz to vote for one of his friends who is running as a candidate in Murphree District.
The Supervisor of Elections created early voting for the first time in modern SG history as a safety precaution for COVID-19. The UF Supreme Court used the early voting option Sept. 17 to justify not implementing online voting.
Early voting for Student Government elections began Monday, Sept. 28 in the Reitz Union.
Lianna Hubbard is a reporter for The Alligator’s Investigative Team. The UF women’s study major began as a freelance reporter three years ago. She founded her community college’s award-winning newspaper before beginning at The Independent Florida Alligator. See an issue in your community or a story at UF? Send tips to her Twitter.