BankUnited voter turnout reaches 54 percent, 67 percent vote Obama

GOTV: Jane Winston and Karla Soimaud of Miami campaigned for President-elect Obama in West Grove on Election Day. Chelsea Matiash // Hurricane Staff.

The results in the two precincts where most University of Miami campus residents voted followed national and state trends in choosing Sen. Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States, according to an analysis of results from the Miami-Dade County Elections Department.

In Precinct 640 at the BankUnited Center (BUC), 67 percent of voters selected Obama and 32 percent cast ballots for Sen. John McCain. The remaining 1 percent was split among 12 other candidates, including five write-ins.

In Precinct 639 at St. Augustine Catholic Church, where some students from the University Village and Stanford Residential College voted, 63 percent voted for Obama while 37 percent voted for McCain.

Jason Stevens, a junior and the president of UM’s Young Democrats and College Democrats, said the results have historical significance.

“Everybody talks about change, but this change is deeper,” Stevens said. “It’s a change in the mentality of our country that just voted for a black man. It’s a turning point in our nation.”

The switch Florida made from voting for Republican President George W. Bush in 2004 to Democrat Barack Obama was part of the nationwide trend, according to Joseph Uscinski, professor of political science.

Information from Miami-Dade Department of Elections, Illustration by Billy Gurdts // Hurricane Staff

“Florida followed a general trend that is happening across the nation,” Uscinski said. “It was caused by the economy and anti-Bush feelings.”

The second most-voted issue on the ballot was Florida constitutional Amendment 2, on which the majority of voters in the two UM precincts did not vote in accordance with the rest of the state. Floridians overwhelmingly voted “yes,” defining marriage as being between a man and woman in the state constitution.

In Precinct 640, 73 percent voted “no,” and 69 percent did the same in Precinct 639.

Voters in those precincts cast more votes on Amendment 2 than in the race for the 18th congressional district seat between Republican incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic challenger Annette Taddeo.

Although Ros-Lehtinen retained her seat, Taddeo earned the majority of votes in precincts 639 and 640.

“[Taddeo] spent a lot of money against her opponent,” Uscinski said. “This energized the opposition to go out and vote against Ros-Lehtinen.”

Overall, the voter turnout in Precinct 639 was about 80 percent, well above county (69), state (72) and national (65) percentages. However, in Precinct 640 at the BUC, the turnout was only 54 percent, according to the county elections department.

Stevens said his groups worked hard to motivate the Democratic base on campus.

“Usually, the campus is pretty apathetic to politics, but at our weekly meeting this year we have had over 75 people showing up wanting to work on a phone bank on hand out flyers,” he said.

Many voters on Tuesday didn’t face the same long lines seen at early voting sites in the two weeks before the election.

Gilbert Arias, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, traveled between the two precincts much of the day to assist student voters. He said lines were short most of the day.

Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for Student Affairs, said she was at the BUC around 8 a.m. and the wait then was about 90 minutes. But she said “the wait was not substantial” through the rest of the day.

During early voting at the Coral Gables Public Library and other sites around South Florida, waits reached up to seven hours.

There were also long waits for the 2004 presidential election, when some UM students didn’t get to vote until early Wednesday morning.

But this Tuesday, the BUC site closed around 7:10 p.m., Arias said. One reason was that the number of voting booths was increased from four in 2004 to 19 in 2008.

St. Augustine had similar line trends, polling clerk Maggie Hays said. The church had a total of nine voting booths.

Shirley Bentley, an inspector at the St. Augustine precinct, said early voting helped ease the crunch on Election Day. According to the Florida Division of Election, more than 2.6 million state residents voted early this time, with a majority reportedly favoring Obama.

Cornelius Jefferson, a junior, wanted to vote early, but never made it. When he voted on Election Day, he said he spent more time filling out his ballot than waiting in line.

“I waited in line for eight minutes and it took me about 10 minutes to fill out my ballot,” Jefferson said. “My friend dropped me off and I told him it would be a couple of hours. I had to call him back to come get me.”

Complete election results can be found on the county’s Web site,

Election Day at UM

Compiled by Nina Ruggiero

“I chose to spend time at UM because it’s such a big campus and the students all seem so informed and involved. The concern was that not too many were participating in early voting, so we wanted to get that motivation out there since any place filled with young people is an Obama stronghold.”

– Cynthia Nixon, “Sex and the City” actress, at the UC

“The amendments are hard to understand. They need to be clarified ahead of time. I know that I went to vote for something I believed in, and I voted the wrong way because I got confused. It’s important to know before you go to vote what each amendment is for and what voting yes or no actually means.”

– Tara Irani, UM alumnus ’08, who was distributing sample ballots in the UC

“We had a good turnout, so far six hundred plus. We expect to reach around 1,100 or 1,200 by the end of tonight, similar to the last presidential election. I was hoping for more, but a lot of people did early voting.

“It’s been running smoothly but the students need to know that an out-of-state driver’s license is not a valid form of ID. They need to get a Florida identification card. Passports or military ID’s are ok too. Also, when many students changed dorms, they didn’t update their information. We’ve had to change a lot of precincts because of that.”

“Every problem we’ve had so far has been solvable.”

– Clerk Floy Denton, poll staffer at the BankUnited Center

“I thought I was going to have to wait forever but it went so smoothly.

“A lot of people think their individual vote doesn’t count, but in a swing state like Florida it is really important. Besides, if everyone thinks like that eventually nobody will vote.”

– Niki Protz, sophomore

“It was easy and quick. After a full day of school I wouldn’t have voted if I had to wait on long lines, so it’s a good thing they made it simple.”

– Alejandro Elizando, freshman

“It was pretty easy. I tried early voting two or three times but there were four hour waits, so I just had to wait until today. I figured the lines would be out the door, but I just walked right in and voted. The ballots were easy to figure out, although the amendments were very poorly worded. It’s a good thing I researched them beforehand.”

– Molly Robinson, senior

“It was so fast here, there was no line at all. I tried early voting, but I had second thoughts when the wait was so long.”

– Jordal Fencel, freshman