Young vot­ers aren’t no-shows any­more

Par­tic­i­pa­tion near col­leges ex­traor­di­nary

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By John Maines South Florida Sun Sen­tinel

Young vot­ers hit the polls in big­ger num­bers this past elec­tion, par­tic­u­larly in Florida’s largest uni­ver­sity towns.

Sixty-two per­cent of reg­is­tered vot­ers age 18 to 21 cast bal­lots in Leon County, home of Florida State Uni­ver­sity, fol­lowed by Alachua County, lo­ca­tion of Uni­ver­sity of Florida, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis of pre­lim­i­nary vot­ing data by the South

Florida Sun Sen­tinel.

Turnout was his­toric

The col­lege-town turnout in those coun­ties and oth­ers was ex­traor­di­nary for young peo­ple, who his­tor­i­cally have the low­est turnout rates of all age groups, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau. In the 2014 midterms, turnout was less than 20 per­cent na­tion­wide.

Over­all, 36 per­cent of Florida’s new­bie elec­torate voted, com­pared with 22 per­cent from the midterm elec­tion four years ear­lier. The re­sults fol­lowed the months-long ef­fort to reg­is­ter more young vot­ers in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Dou­glas mas­sacre in Park­land that killed 17 peo­ple.

Af­ter the tragedy, stu­dents from Stoneman Dou­glas and other schools and or­ga­ni­za­tions across

the county ral­lied to reg­is­ter young vot­ers. The goal was to elect lead­ers who fo­cus on new laws and reg­u­la­tions aimed at re­duc­ing gun vi­o­lence in Amer­ica.

Col­lege towns did best

The new data from the Florida Di­vi­sion of Elec­tions is pre­lim­i­nary, as coun­ties had un­til Dec. 20 to fin­ish re­port­ing, which will be re­flected in a re­vi­sion later this month, said Sarah Rev­ell, spokes­woman for the agency. In gen­eral, the data showed a clear pattern of high turnouts of young vot­ers in coun­ties that are ed­u­ca­tional cen­ters — Leon and Alachua were higher than the over­all state av­er­age of 55 per­cent for all age groups in the pre­lim­i­nary data. (Im­me­di­ately af­ter the elec­tion, the state listed the over­all turnout at 62 per­cent).

Last Novem­ber was the first time in re­cent years that early vot­ing was al­lowed on col­lege cam­puses. The sec­re­tary of state is­sued

a ban on the prac­tice in 2014, but a fed­eral judge last sum­mer ruled the ban un­con­sti­tu­tional.

South Florida: Not as good

Broward County, where the Park­land shoot­ing oc­curred, had about one in four young vot­ers turn­ing out, with Palm at one in 10, ac­cord­ing to the pre­lim­i­nary num­bers. Mi­ami-Dade did bet­ter, at 42 per­cent. The num­bers could change as the num­bers are fi­nal­ized. “We counted bal­lots all the way up un­til Dec. 20,” said Palm Beach County Su­per­vi­sor of Elec­tions Su­san Bucher.

Semi­nole County ranks third

Justin Tea­man, chief deputy of op­er­a­tions in Semi­nole County, which ranked third be­hind Leon and Alachua in young voter turnout, said it’s pos­si­ble that South Florida ranked lower be­cause stu­dents

here headed north to more pop­u­lar towns and voted there. The county is home to Semi­nole State Col­lege, which has four cam­pus there. Tea­man said his of­fice ag­gres­sively registers young vot­ers and en­cour­ages them to break the mold of be­ing tra­di­tional non-vot­ers.

“That’s part of our pre­sen­ta­tion when we go to high schools,” Tea­man said. “That’s one of the key el­e­ments — you guys don’t vote.” In 2017, his of­fice won an in­ter­na­tional award for its Fu­ture Voter Ini­tia­tive that reaches out to first­time vot­ers. Young voter turnout in Semi­nole to­taled 42 per­cent last Novem­ber, com­pared with 31 per­cent in 2014.

Break­ing it down fur­ther

The num­bers of un­der­grad­u­ate-age reg­is­tered vot­ers is a frac­tion of Florida’s to­tal — just un­der 700,000 out of the 13 mil­lion to­tal. Even if ev­ery one of them had showed up at the

polls, the statewide turnout would have ticked up only a bit, to 58 per­cent.

Here are a few other find­ings:

■ While the 36 per­cent turnout ex­ceeded the 2014 midterms, it didn’t come close to the 57 per­cent in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, when Don­ald Trump faced off with Hil­lary Clin­ton.

■ Slightly more than half of those turn­ing out were women, about 40 per­cent men. But the ac­tual break­down is un­clear, be­cause about one in 10 have a gen­der listed as “un­known” in the state’s voter rolls.

■ Forty-three per­cent of the vot­ers were reg­is­tered as Democrats, and 28 per­cent each for Republicans and No Party Af­fil­i­a­tion. The re­main­der were some other party af­fil­i­a­tion.

■ Whites made up 47 per­cent, His­pan­ics 20 per­cent, and blacks 18 per­cent.

WILFREDO LEE/AP

Park­land shoot­ing sur­vivors hold a June news con­fer­ence, an­nounc­ing a 20-state tour where they planned to meet with young vot­ers.

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