Students find Tuesday more fat than super at University at Buffalo

Sasha Parker

CHECK OUT photos of the Super Tuesday primary in Buffalo.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Student Union buzzed with activity. On the first floor, it was Fat Tuesday, and students celebrated Mardi Gras with beads and N’awlins jazz. On the second floor, students lined up by the dozens to donate blood. And hidden in a lonely corner on the first floor was a faint glimmer of Super Tuesday.

Out of the more than 18,000 students at the University at Buffalo, fewer than 100 had voted at the campus polling location by its 9 p.m. close.

“All students who have used their on-campus address to register to vote are supposed to vote here,” said poll worker Peggy Scott. “But for one reason or another, students just aren’t showing up.”

Peter Grollitsch, president of the University at Buffalo Undergraduate Student Association, cited many reasons why students simply haven’t taken an interest in the primary.

“There are a lot of factors. One specifically is that New York, for a long time, has been Democratic, so it’s not like it’s one of the key states. There’s not much national media focusing on New York the way it’s focusing on Ohio and other states,” Grollitsch said. “Also, the younger 18- to 22-year-old crowd doesn’t necessarily care as this point, they’re still too busy doing other things.”

While these issues may have a little to do with the low voter turnout on campus, the poll workers attribute it to a lack of knowledge about voting processes and procedures.

“There’s a lack of Civics 101 around these parts,” said poll worker Bob Hayman. “A lot of students show up thinking that they can vote here simply because they’re registered in the state of New York, but it just doesn’t work that way.”

According to New York voter guidelines, voters must be registered to vote no fewer than 25 days before the election they intend to vote in. For Super Tuesday, New York voters had to register by Jan. 11.

A lack of campus voter registration drives, however, has left students at the University at Buffalo in the dark about where, when and how to vote.

“We didn’t do any voter registration, but we do have the literature available for students in our office,” said Grollitsch. “Some freshmen students have come in and picked up voter registration forms, but what they’ve done with it after that, I don’t know.”

For freshman pharmacy major Lauren St. Fleur, a little guidance on the voting procedure would have been helpful.

“I’ve been going around by myself trying to get information about what to do. I wish they would have had a seminar or something to get people together and explain how to vote,” St. Fleur said. “I’ve just been walking around this whole big campus trying to find some answers. I just registered today because I was walking by here and saw the sign, so I decided to stop in.

This will be first time St. Fleur has ever voted. Although she was not able to vote in the presidential primary, she plans to vote in the general election in November.

Freshman political science major Kinsey Davidson said students shouldn’t let these issues at the polls deter them from voting.

“It’s really important that young people go out and vote, especially in this election with the way things have been going over the last eight years. With the possibility of having a women candidate or a black candidate, this is a historic election. I’m excited to have the opportunity to share in that,” Davidson said.

Davidson drove to her home county to vote on Super Tuesday.

“To be honest, I just want a candidate who is going to bring people together,” she said. “There are so many issues – gay marriage, the war in Iraq and the shambles that the economy is in right now. I want someone who can bring people together from all places on the political continuum and get this country together.

For many students like Davidson and St. Fleur, Barack Obama is that ideal candidate.

“He just has this power to bring people together. He seems like such a genuine guy, and as far as the issues, I really like his stance on environment and the mess that we’ve made,” Davidson said.

While University at Buffalo students didn’t turn out to vote in big numbers on Super Tuesday, they did come out and register. So, although their voices may not have been heard in the primary, they will have something to say in November.

Contact public affairs reporter Sasha Parker at [email protected].