TAMPA, Fla. – In a bid to get young people to the polls, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told a crowd made up mostly students that if they don’t vote, Republicans will win.
"If voter turnout is low, you're going to end up with right-wing reactionary leadership in Florida," Sanders told a crowd of several hundred people at the University of South Florida on Wednesday.
Sanders' visits to USF and the University of Central Florida in Orlando earlier in the day were all in an effort to solidify support among a key block of voters who are notorious for sitting out of mid-term elections.
Currently, Republicans retain a slight edge in what is shaping up to be a record turnout for early and mail-in voting in Florida.
Nearly 3.5 million Floridians—25 percent of the state’s registered voters—have already cast a ballot with six days left until the mid-term election.
But early voting among young people ages 18-29 is lagging, accounting for roughly 200,000—or 6 percent—of turnout.
Sanders said he was told before taking the stage that just 81 votes out of a potential 2,900 have been cast in the precinct that includes the USF campus.
“That’s pathetic,” he told the crowd, before announcing that Democratic attorney general candidate Sean Shaw would lead students to an early voting site on campus after the speech.
"Your views don't mean anything unless you participate in the political process and you come out to vote,” Sanders said.
Several students who spoke to 10News said they had not voted yet but intended to do so, with most saying they were headed to one of the on-campus early voting sites.
"It's not too late,” said USF student Aly Palumbo. “I think this rally will really help get people going to the polls.”
College campuses can now host polling locations following a federal court ruling in July. The ruling said the state’s previous ban on polling sites on college campuses was discriminatory.
"It's our job to convince other young people to go out and vote to make their voices heard,” said USF student Mykenzie Robertson.
Gillum himself did not appear during Wednesday’s rally but Sanders was joined by Shaw and Gillum’s running mate Chris King.
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