Danyell Shackelford expects 2,000-3,000 students from Florida A&M University, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College to attend a sleepover with a mission.
From Nov. 1-2, students will spend the night at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center for the “Sleep out for the Vote Extravaganza.”
They will participate in early voting the next morning at the Leon County Courthouse.
Shackelford, a 22-year-old junior at FSU, said Sleep Out for the Vote will be a night of fun.
“There’ll be food and entertainment, an EA games tournament, breakfast in the morning, and then we’ll be marching to the polls to participate in early voting together,” she said.
Sleep Out for the Vote is a joint effort between the three student government bodies in Tallahassee, said Shackelford, who is also a member of FSU’s 58th Student Senate and chairwoman of the Vote FSU Coalition.
Shackelford said the intent of the event is to get students to become “civically engaged.”
“The idea was born on our campus (FSU), then it grew to something we thought would be good for all students,” explained Shackelford, who helped plan the event.
Shackelford said she then called the student government associations at TCC and FAMU.
Interested organizations have been meeting regularly at 9 p.m. on Thursdays.
FAMU Student Body President Phillip Agnew said he and FSU SGA president Chris Evans are set to “host” the event.
“We’ve been in the planning process for at least a month, month and a half,” said Mario Henderson, the director of student lobbying at FAMU. Henderson helped orchestrate FAMU’s involvement in the event.
Henderson, 19, a political science student from Daytona Beach, said FAMU became involved in Sleep Out for the Vote after trying unsuccessfully to plan a gubernatorial debate.
Henderson explained that Congressman Jim Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor, was willing to participate, but Attorney General Charlie Crist, the Republican candidate, would not agree.
FAMU then focused on combining forces with the city’s other schools, Henderson said.
“There are about 60,000 students in Tallahassee, so if we were to come together we could have a lot of clout,” he said.
Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion V. Sancho said he was ready and willing to assist the students in their efforts.
He said students contacted him, which he appreciated because it allows him to have extra poll workers ready to help the large crowd of voters.
“Our goal is to have an accessible and verifiable process, and we’re excited to assist our student population in ensuring their opinions are added to that of the community,” Sancho said.
Sancho said presidential elections usually receive the largest turnout of student voters, so he was excited students were mobilizing for the Nov.7 general election.
Sancho also said there are several very important issues on the ballot, headed by the gubernatorial race, so he hopes people will not only pay attention to the governor race, but to all the others as well.
Candidates are running for the positions of attorney general and chief financial officer for the sate of Florida, which are Cabinet-level positions.
“These positions are very, very vital in voting on issues that affect our state. All these individuals vote on clemency, restoring voting rights for convicted felons,” Sancho said. “And there’s also a referendum to provide health care for among the neediest of Leon County citizens,” Sancho said, in reference to the half-cent tax increase referendum.
Henderson said the SGA presidents from FAMU and FSU, Agnew and Evans, currently have commercials on radio stations 102.3-FM and 104.9-FM advertising the “Sleep Out for the Vote Extravaganza.”
Agnew, in a joking manner, said the commercials tell the listeners that “voting is sexy.” The commercials display the personalities of the SGA leaders but still communicate the issue, which Agnew said is serious.
Sancho also explained that his office has been working to make the election process more accessible. He said any student who is legally registered to vote in the state of Florida can vote in Leon County for the upcoming election by simply doing a change of address.
There are three ways to vote this year.
Sancho described the options, saying that a student can participate in early voting, pick up the phone and ask to have a ballot mailed directly to his or her dorm address, or wait until Nov. 7 and vote in their assigned precincts.
Early voting will run from Oct. 23 to Nov. 4 at the Leon County Court House. By 11:40 a.m. on the first day of early voting, Sancho said they had already voted 200 people.