More than 200 gather to promote early voting

More than 200 students from Florida A&M University, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College spent the night in the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center for the “Sleep Out for the Vote Extravaganza” Wednesday.

Less than 60 of those students marched to the Leon County Courthouse Thursday morning to participate in early voting.Danyell Shackelford, FSU student senator and chairwoman of the sleep out, said FAMU, FSU and TCC student governments created the event to promote voter advocacy among Tallahassee college students.

“We’re marching to the polls to send a message to the candidates that they should pay attention to issues that effect college students,” Shackelford said.

Phillip Agnew, FAMU student body president, said the extravaganza was a non-partisan event.

“We’re not telling you who to vote for,” Agnew said to the students, “but we are just asking you to vote.” Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion V. Sancho said Thursday was the largest early voting day this year. Sancho said the sleep out contributed to Thursday’s record.

“I wish more people could have the same enthusiasm about voting,” Sancho said.

Mario Henderson, FAMU Vote Coalition liaison, said he and Shackelford expected more than 2,000 students to attend the event. Although they did not reach their goal, Henderson said he still thinks the event was effective.

“I am disappointed, but as long as these students reach others to go out and vote, I think we have done a good job,” Henderson said.

Christopher Evans, FSU student body president, said students must vote if they want to be taken seriously.

“When you go to the Capitol and you want to have all your issues addressed, it’s important that you have a vote to stand behind your demands,” Evans said.

Dancers, singers and poets from the three schools performed throughout the night while students educated each other about election issues.

“This event shows that voting can be fun,” said FAMU student Jasmine Powell.

Joe O’shea, secretary of social justice for the FSU Student Government Association, said students have a stake in this community.

“If we want to make the change that we want the world to be, we have to vote,” O’shea said.

Some students supporting gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist and Jim Davis also attended the event.

But Merick Lewin, FSU student and member of the Crist campaign team, said Democrat and Republican students should work together.

“If we, as a group of young people, get out there, they’ll start listening to us,” Lewin said to the students.

Karen Thurman, Florida Democratic Party chairwoman, said this event will make elected officials consider young voters more. “This makes those that have been elected pay more attention to the young voter,” Thurman said.

Candidates in the Nov. 7 election applauded the students for their early voting efforts.

Anthony “Dr. V” Viegbesie, candidate for City Commission Seat 3, told students they can have an impact on government. “You, the students, have the insight, the energy and the ability to change government,” Viegbesie said.

Ron Flury, candidate for Leon County Judge Seat 3, said students’ votes are as important as other residents’ votes.”They have to realize their vote counts every bit as much as everybody else’s,” Flury said.

Organizers of the “Sleep Out for the Vote Extravaganza” are already making plans for the 2008 elections.

“We are starting now and getting people motivated,” Henderson said. “We have to encourage people to take advantage of their social responsibility.”

Shackelford said this year’s “Sleep Out for the Vote Extravaganza” was a learning experience.

“This is training for 2008,” Shackelford said.