Election Day at UM brings surprises, student enthusiasm

People lined up outside of West Kendall Regional Library, Precinct #762, on Tuesday afternoon to vote. While waiting in line they were each given a sample ballot and the supporters of local candidates passed out literature. Monica Herndon // Assistant Photo Editor
People lined up outside of West Kendall Regional Library, Precinct #762, on Tuesday afternoon to vote. While waiting in line they were each given a sample ballot and the supporters of local candidates passed out literature. Monica Herndon // Assistant Photo Editor

Students at UM hit the polls on campus as early as 7 a.m., as soon as they opened.

Both presidential candidates, including President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, have been looking to garner support from the state of Florida, which has a total of 29 electoral votes and has been considered a powerful swing state during this election.

On Oct. 31, Romney made a visit to the BankUnited Center (BUC) to partake in a grassroots rally. Former Gov. Jeb Bush, Congressman Connie Mack and Senator Marco Rubio joined him.

Before that, Romney was last at UM on Sept. 19, when Univision reporters Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas Romney and Obama for a broadcast on the Spanish station.

Romney’s session with the journalists lasted 35 minutes, while Obama’s lasted one hour.

The president has visited the University of Miami three times in the past eight months. In March, Obama visited UM and spoke about the United States’ energy policy. Before his speech, the president received a tour of the college, as well as a demo of an in-house project focused on energy efficiency. In October, he visited campus again for his own grassroots rally.

Morning at the BankUnited Center (BUC)

Freshman Sophia Koss, 18, arrived at the BUC at 7 a.m. and waited in line for 2 hours before realizing that if she stayed any longer, she’d miss her English class.

Already inside of the polling place, Koss was told the wait would be another half hour to 45 minutes. She hurriedly left to class and returned at 11 a.m. to cast her vote.

“It’s way faster than it was this morning,” she said.

As a first-time voter, she decided to register in Florida to make her vote matter.

“It’s a swing state,” Koss said. “New York obviously goes Democrat, so I wanted to have my vote count.”

Koss said she wanted to support President Barack Obama by voting for his re-election in Florida, a state with a less predictable election than her home state of New York.

“His economic policies – I think Romney would only set us back – his stance on healthcare and then women’s rights,” Koss listed as reasons she is voting for Obama.

While Koss spoke about her first time voting, Keith Hanson, originally from New York, and now a junior, has been voting at UM since his freshman year.

“Because I’m living down here now, a lot of the local stuff will affect me more than it would back home,” said twenty-year-old Hanson.

Hanson, a marine science and biology double major, briefed himself on the ballot items –primarily the amendments – before arriving at the BankUnited Center.

“The only city issue is the ordinance about pick-up trucks, which I think is stupid to ban,” Hanson said. “A buddy of mine has a pick-up truck and he can’t live in Coral Gables. “

Hanson will be voting in favor of allowing pick-up trucks to be parked in driveways overnight.

On a national scale, Hanson will be voting for President Barack Obama.

“I mainly vote for social issues because I know far less about the economy and there’s far less evidence either way about the economy, even after the fact,” he said. “On social issues, I’m definitely pro-choice, pro-gay marriage and everything.”

Compared to the 2010 mid-term election, Hanson said he sees a lot more people voting in this one.

“It was a much shorter line last time, and a lot less caring either way for who wins or who people are supporting,” he said.

Alumni voter

Daniela Menache, 23, graduated from UM last year but is back on campus today to vote for the next president of the United States.

Originally from California, Menache has been a registered voter at the BankUnited Center precinct since she was a student.

Menache stood in line reading through a sample ballot to familiarize herself with the amendments and other local ballot items.

Finding the language very confusing, Menache talked it over with someone in line who seemed to know more about the issues.

“There are different clauses and this and that, so I feel like you really have to be educated or you’ll vote for the wrong thing,” she said.

Menache felt she was not prepared at all to vote on these additional items.

“I just knew what president I wanted to vote for,” she said.

Menache said she is voting for Obama because she believes in helping the people rather than letting the rich get richer.

Leaving a mark

Junior Colin Fitzgibbon, 20, is making a statement.

Though he registered on campus during his freshman year, this is the first election that he’ll be voting in. And his vote is going to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

“Both of the main political candidates are garbage. This is really a joke of an election,” Fitzgibbon said. “Some people would argue that I’m throwing my vote away, but you’re throwing your vote away if you vote for either of those people.”

Fitzgibbon said he is supporting Johnson because the candidate holds the same opinion on almost every issue.

Among other things, both advocate the legalization of marijuana, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, isolationist foreign policy. In contrast, Fitzgibbon thinks that the choice between President Barack Obama and Republican opponent Mitt Romney is one of the lesser of two evils.

“They’re kind of both the same corporate identities that are going to continue to run this country into the ground with debt,” Fitzgibbon said. “As long as the government is espoused with big business, it’s not going to be good.”

Undecided at the poll

Fifth-year senior Ryan Carhart, 23, is walking into the voting booth with a big decision still unmade.

When she voted in 2008, Carhart chose to cast her ballot in favor of Barack Obama. This time, she won’t know whether she’s voting the same way until she fills in that bubble.

“I haven’t made up my mind,” she said. “I’m the worst decision maker of all time.”

Standing in line next to Carhart is Sam Franklin, 23, a first-year physical therapy graduate student with whom Carhart has been friends since the beginning of their college experience.

When asked what will end up helping her make her decision, Carhart lets Franklin answer.

“Me, convicing her to vote Obama this whole time in line,” he said.

Carhart showed up and found Franklin in line.

“It was good timing,” Franklin said.

Carhart agreed that it was a nice coincidence.

“I have a voting buddy,” she said.

While Carhart said she would be reading up about the issues on her phone as she stood in line, Franklin had already read about the amendments in advance.

“I’m pretty much going to go no on all of the amendments,” Franklin said. “I feel like even if they’re good, you can make a law. You don’t need to change the state constitution.”

During the time they had already spent waiting in line, both Franklin and Carhart discussed with each other their concerns over having their ballots be provisional.

“I recently had a change of address. I don’t know if they know that, so we’ll see,” Franklin said.

Afternoon voters

UM’s Get Out the Vote movement (GOTV) worked to satisfy students’ appetite and thirst by providing water, pizza and popcorn for people who waited in line around 1 p.m.

The Canes for Obama and Canes for Romney organizations distributed buttons and stickers to students, giving one last push in recruiting voters.

Given the political significance of Florida and especially the university’s faculty, UM President Donna E. Shalala made a visit with Sebastian the Ibis.

Between meetings in the School of Business and various appearances at watch parties, she took one of GOTV’s shuttles from Stanford Circle to the BUC as a means of promoting democracy among students.

“We need to do everything we can to be supportive of voting in a democracy,” she said. “Of course today, I just wanted to show support for Sebastian.”

Students, like sophomore Brandon Barsky, were pleased with her presence on such a momentous occasion.

“I think it’s cool she’s so involved,” he said. “My brother goes to school up in New York and hardly ever sees his president.”

Barsky, a 19-year-old pre-med, biology major, was excited to be participating in his first election, especially since the candidate’s healthcare platforms really hit home. His brother is currently on medical leave from school and is no longer covered by his school’s insurance plan. Now, thanks to ObamaCare, he is still covered, but under his parents insurance.

“I’ve been a supporter of Obama since 2008,” Barsky said. “I’m voting to make sure things stay the same.”