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Early Voting On Campus Boosts Youth, Minority Turnout, But Battle Brews Over Parking

Early Voting Here sign
Early voting on college campuses appears to boost turnout among young voters, a study has found

Early voting on college campuses was allowed in Florida for the first time in 2018. A new study suggests the convenience helped increase the number of young voters.

About 60,000 people voted at college campuses in the two weeks before the 2018 election.

Thirty-eight percent of on-campus early voters were aged 18 to 22 -- a group with traditionally low turnout.

That's ten times higher than those of the same age group who cast early ballots off campus, said Daniel Smith, professor of political science at the University of Florida and author of the study.

"The evidence suggests that yes, indeed those counties that allowed the early voting on public and private campuses during that two-week period before the November election had an increase in younger voters turning out," said Smith.

Hispanics and African-Americans also voted in higher numbers on campus.

Hispanic voters accounted for nearly 30% of early on campus votes, but just 12.8% of the nearly 2.65 million early ballots cast statewide at non-campus locations.

The study found that more than 22% of early on campus votes were cast by black voters, compared to just 18% of early votes cast at off-campus locations.

In all, 56% of early voters on Florida campuses were aged 18-29.

Typically, older voters are the ones who tend to vote early, and in the highest numbers. But campus voting shifts the dynamics, said Smith.

"Younger voters tend not to be using the early voting as much as some of the other demographic groups across the state but what we found across these campuses was not only younger voters but also people of color were more likely," he said.

Those numbers could change. There’s a legal battle brewing over a clause that was added to SB 7066, an election law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis this year. It requires "sufficient non-permitted parking" be available to accommodate early voters.

A lawsuit has been filed by the League of Women Voters to block it, alleging an attempt at voter suppression.

“This is about suppressing the right to vote. That is what is going on here," LWV of Florida President Patti Brigham said.

"This has never been about parking. This has always been about providing early voting access to students who live on campus primarily and who do not have cars."

But Hillsborough County Elections Supervisor Craig Latimer said-- at least at USF Tampa’s campus -- plenty of free parking was available last time, and should be this time, too.

"I don't see an issue at all with the University of South Florida. We have got a great working relationship with the university,” Latimer said.

“We make sure that we have adequate parking. Early voting takes place over multiple days so it is not like everybody shows up at 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning on one day."

A total of 12 Florida colleges and universities held early voting last year.

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.