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Rams Head voting site sees thin turnout

Student voters may find themselves searching for a new voting site next year.

The reduced level of early voting at Rams Head Dining Hall has made the Orange County Board of Elections reconsider using the location in future elections.

Tracy Reams, the director of the board, said the numbers for this year’s early voting are unusually low.

As of Wednesday, only 117 people had voted at the Rams Head site.

The Seymour Senior Center, another early voting site, had a total of 635 votes. At that time, the total votes for all early voting sites in the county totaled 1,217.

Early voting at Rams Head hasn’t seen more than 15 voters per day, while other sites off campus like the Seymour Senior Center have had as many as 86 early voters in one day.

In 2011, the last nonpresidential election, early voting numbers totaled 4,243 at all Orange County early voting locations leading up to Election Day.

“I wouldn’t say 2011 was especially high,” said Reams regarding the early voting totals.

Jamie Cox, secretary of the Board of Elections, said the board would vote on the decision to keep the Rams Head voting site.

He said there had been some concern about the Rams Head station because of the low early voter turnout due to lack of student participation.

Reams said Rams Head was mostly used by students, but there was no way of knowing how many voters were students.

Members of the board debated how they could keep the Rams Head Dining Hall site as a viable voting location in August.

All voting sites are required to offer curbside voting for handicapped voters. At Rams Head, curbside voters can pull up to the parking deck and be given a ballot to fill out.

Cox said he wanted to allow students to vote and wanted to ensure that they would still have that ability.

“I am committed to providing a one-stop voting site for the campus community,” Cox added.

Cox said municipal elections were not the best way to gauge voter turnout because fewer people turn out to vote.

He added that voter turnout for municipal elections is much lower than for state or federal elections in nonpresidential years, which also generate lower-than-average turnout.

Cox said that it is due in part to the low level of student engagement in municipal elections, although there have been years when students have been particularly engaged.

“A different population turns out to vote,” Cox said.

He said the board was evaluating decisions about where polling sites would be in 2014.

He said he was eager to hear suggestions about locations for voting sites. He said it was important to have a site that best serves the community.

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