Students turnout despite no poll on campus
November 2, 2010 7:54 PM
Despite the absence of polling places on campus, SF State voter turnout was not stifled yesterday as a line stretched out the door at Tempest Baptist Church at Stonestown Mall.
The campus provided two voting stations for dorm residents and other students in 2008, but this year, along with the Park Merced location on Arballo Drive, the church on 19th Avenue welcomed students to cast their votes.
According to poll workers, a rush consisting mainly of students began at 11 a.m. By 5 p.m., the ballot count at the church was 107. Poll workers in both locations had high hopes for throngs as students were released from class.
"The level of enthusiasm has been high," said Debra Benedict, who has been working as an election officer for two years. "Yesterday the Giants won and people drank a lot and at the last minute there's gonna be a shower of newly sober people coming in to vote."
According to SF State Deputy Chief of Staff Jason Porth, the San Francisco Department of Elections chooses booth locations in each precinct based on previous voter turnout.
He said the department did not contact the University for this election because the June primary garnered low participation on campus.
"It's because they do it where they'll serve the most people," Porth said. "Since our university serves low population in the summer months, not many people were here to vote in June."
Zachary Thwaits, a three-year poll worker, agreed. He said the first time the church accommodated voters was last June and just 10 people showed up.
"There was so much energy to persuade students on campus. I guess it was a conflict of interest to have booths on campus," said Marisa Soski, a biology major and poll worker for the Park Merced precinct.
According to Soski, seniors and students shared the voter turnout count at the Park Merced poll, yet the location did not receive as much student traffic as the church.
Currently, just over 450,000 San Francisco residents are registered to vote. Out of 200,000 mail-in votes issued, only 30 percent were returned as of yesterday morning.
"It's really simple to fill out a ballot, but the reality is many of them won't," said Gail Pellerin, president of the California Association of Clerk and Elected officials.
Many students said they looked for polling booths on campus, but admitted that going to the church or Park Merced wasn't a huge inconvenience.
Anthropology major Tim Meek voted on campus when he lived in the dorms in 2008 and was confused about why this wasn't an option this year.
"When we heard it was here, we asked why," Meek said. "Obviously, on campus is more logical."
Controversial ballot measures such as propositions 19 and 23 and the Governor's race compelled first-time and veteran student voters to the polls.
"Anything that has to do with taxes is important," said business major LuLu Valle. "It's our money, but we don't really think about where it goes."
First-time student voter Kelly Leslie said she observed students on campus growing disinterested upon discovering polls were held off-campus.
"It's my responsibility as a U.S. citizen (to vote) and I'm privileged to have this right," she said. "I should take advantage of it."
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