After experiencing a low voter turnout in March, ASU’s first on-campus voting site has seen a major increase in the number of visitors within the first week of special election early voting.
In the first three days of operation, 169 students and community members cast their ballots at the Palo Verde West voting location on the Tempe campus. During early voting in the March primary city council elections, less than 30 people showed up at the polling site, which is located near the Fulton Center and University Drive.
“We are winning the race among the early voting sites,” said Janet Maughan, a voting clerk at the polling location.
In the first three days, voter turnout at the new site more than doubled the turnout at the Tempe Public Library, a site known to attract a majority of the city’s in-person early voters. As of Thursday afternoon, 66 votes had been cast at the library since Monday, said Tempe City Clerk Jan Hort.
Rudi O’Keefe-Zelman, vice president of policy for the Undergraduate Student Government, said there are two main reasons for the boost in voter participation.
Compared to the last election, where four city council candidates were vying for three seats, the issue on the ballot is much bigger this time, she said.
Voters are deciding on Proposition 100, a tax increase measure that has drawn fire from Arizona Tea Party groups and has garnered the support of the Arizona Students’ Association as well as other education organizations.
“This is something a lot of people feel strongly about,” O’Keefe-Zelman said.
Psychology junior Christine Kuo went to the polls Thursday afternoon with Prop. 100 in mind.
“My mom is a teacher,” Kuo said, explaining that her mom insisted she vote.
O’Keefe-Zelman also said the increase could be caused by a greater voter population. Unlike the last election, which was only open to Tempe residents, any registered Maricopa County voter can use the polling site.
“A lot more students are registered in the whole county of Maricopa,” she said.
Voters who show up at the ASU site are given ballots from their precincts. While Prop. 100 will appear on all ballots, local governments might also push ballot initiatives of their own. Each individual ballot is printed off from a computer list and given to the voter.
Still, other reasons might have contributed to the increase in voter turnout.
“There has been a big push on educating students on the importance of voting,” Hort said.
USG has been working this semester to educate students about Prop. 100, O’Keefe-Zelman said, adding that the student government has not endorsed either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote on the initiative but has simply called for students to get out and vote.
“If it passes, it’s going to affect them,” she said. “If it fails, it’s going to affect them.”
Hort said that with the semester coming to an end, the voting location could see the majority of its votes within the first couple of weeks.
Normally, early voting sites experience a rush of people at the end of the voting period, she said.
“I don’t know if that’s going to follow through with ASU,” she said.
The voting location will be open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The location closes May 14 and will not be open on election day, which is May 18.
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