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ASUA early voting site draws thousands

MATT ROBLES/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Finance senior John Dutton stands in line to vote at the ASUA office Thursday afternoon. Thousands of UA students and other Pima county registered voters took advantage of the early polling site on campus.
By Holly Wells
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 1, 2004
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More than 2,300 students voted last week at the early polling site on campus, making it one of the busiest of Tucson's nine early polling sites.

Gov. Janet Napolitano visited the site Friday afternoon, shaking hands with more than 300 students waiting in line to cast their vote.

Alistair Chapman, Associated Students of the University of Arizona president, said about 765 people voted at the early polling site Friday, with 87 provisional ballots dropped off, making Friday's totals alone more than 800.

Chapman said the number of voters at the site exceeded his expectations.

"As far as I know, this was the most heavily used voting site in Tucson last week," Chapman said, "We definitely had the most people for Friday."

Chapman said Napolitano's visit was a nice surprise.

"We knew she was in Tucson on other business, but we didn't know if she'd have time to stop by, she made it a priority," Chapman said.

Napolitano was impressed with the number of voters and especially impressed with the number of student voters, Chapman said.

"There's been such an aggressive effort to get young voters, and the site showed that that effort was successful," he said.

The site opened at 8 a.m. Oct. 25, and Chapman said the number of voters increased each day as the week went on. Lines at the site on Friday were more than two and a half hours long during some parts of the day.

Chapman said the site, which was scheduled to close at 5 p.m., was actually closed down around 7:30 p.m. Friday.

"We wanted to give everyone in line at five the opportunity to vote so we got them through," he said.

Katie Bailey, psychology freshman, waited in line an hour and 10 minutes to vote Friday.

Bailey said it would have been a lot harder for her to vote Nov. 2.

"A lot of students are too busy. This makes it easier. You can vote on breaks in between classes," she said.

Chapman said there were few complaints throughout the week.

"Even the Recorder's Office commented on how patient everyone was," he said, "Most students just seemed appreciative that we had a site on campus."

The site was staffed by the Pima County Recorder's Office, and ASUA volunteers were on hand to control lines and make sure no one campaigned within 75 feet of the site.

Undeclared freshman Kaely Brinkerhoff stood at the end of the line around 1 p.m. Friday and said she was willing to wait in line for as long as necessary.

"I don't have a car, and my polling site is far away, so this is easier," Brinkerhoff said.

The polling site was the result of months of negotiations between ASUA and the Pima County Recorder's Office and has been described as the capstone of ASUA's effort to promote civic engagement.

Chapman said the Recorder's Office was impressed with the turnout at the site and plans to come back for future elections, including the governor's race in two years and the next presidential election.

"There's already been talk about trying to get bigger facilities for future elections," Chapman said.

Chapman said he knows some people were skeptical when they first heard the idea of bringing a polling site to campus.

"We proved it could be a success," Chapman said, "We exceeded our own expectations - we didn't expect there to be a line in the hall. We just couldn't have imagined a better week."

ASUA began negotiations for the polling site mid-July. Chapman said ASUA wanted an early voting site so all voters in Pima County could vote at the site and not have to worry about finding their district.

Anyone in Pima County could vote at the site because polling staff had all district ballots on hand.

The polling place for students living on campus is First Christian Church, 740 E. Speedway Blvd.

Tom Schuyler, political science sophomore, said if he had waited until Election Day he would have had to bike to his polling site because he doesn't have a car.

"I don't even know where my polling site is," he said. "It's definitely worth the wait here."

The polling site was considered the most important part of ASUA's efforts to increase civic engagement on campus.

"It's given students exposure to voting - it's been a presence on campus," Chapman said. "General accessibility for students was the key."

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