Young adults vote in lower numbers in Texas. Will that change?

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas, explained that young adults in the Lone Star state don’t show up in the numbers you’d expect. 

“In Texas compared to the United States, our young voters are not participating as much as they are in other states,” Chimene explained. “Our elderly voters are participating fine, just about the same as other states, but the young voters are not.”

Which is one reason organizations like Chimene’s and others are pushing to get young voters the information they need in Texas.

“The issue in Texas, I believe, is that there are so many young voters who don’t have history in their family of voting, so they need to learn how to do it, and we’re all for new voters and young voters to experience the voting process,” she said. 

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan group, they help counties like Travis County to get out the vote in elections. They’ve begun using text reminders ( you can text LWVTX to 80123 and get election reminders) as well as an online voting guide to make online voting easier for people of all ages 

“I think this election is going to be different because it is competitive, it is exciting,” she said. “Some candidates are targeting that college-age vote, and I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for young people to get their voices heard.”

Beto O’ Rourke spoke UT Austin Thursday to drum up support in his race for the Texas Senate seat, part of a statewide tour to energize college voters. But the Travis County Clerk’s office explained, young voters may register in high numbers, but only some of them will actually turn up to vote. 

On the UT campus, there have been plenty of efforts to get every student possible registered, student groups have tables with voter registration forms available and plan to continue until the October 9 deadline to register to vote. 

“Almost every college student moves year to year, so the big thing is having to do change of address,” explained Andrew Herrera, the president of University Democrats at UT Austin. ( If you live in Travis County and change your address, you can re-register to vote here)

Herrera will be voting for O’Rourke in the fall election. Until then, he spends time out at his organization’s table giving fellow Longhorns information about voting. 

The students passing by the table had many questions for Herrera: when is the election? (November 6). When does early voting start (October 22). What do I need to bring when I vote? ( a form of identification). 

“A lot of young people just feel disenfranchised with the system,” Herrera explained, adding that he is works to talk with peers who have doubts about why their vote could make a difference. After talking with students around campus, he’s learned many of them care about things like housing affordability, improved transportation, and finding candidates they are excited about.

“Both sides I think are very motivated and very excited and have things they want to go vote on,” said Lillian Bonin, the vice chairman of Young Conservatives of Texas at UT. Bonin will be voting to re-elect Senator Ted Cruz in the fall.  

“Everyone I know is very much excited to vote, the drive to register people to vote on campus has been incredibly successful and impressive,” she said. Bonin hopes that having an additional voting location on campus this fall improves voter turnout. 

Bonin, like other students we spoke with, noted that the political climate on campus has grown increasingly tense surrounding differences of opinion on the Kavanaugh hearings. 

But she feels these divides will always exist in a college environment, at the end of the day she hopes everyone on campus– regardless of who they’re voting for — makes it a priority to cast their ballot. 

“I would encourage them if they have an opinion to go make it known and vote,” she said.

Herrera feels that many young voters will be mobilized around things that have happened in national politics this year, but that the pundits will count out the young voters.

“They don’t expect you to vote even with all of that, so it’s up to us to defy expectations, to get people out, regardless of which party you’re voting for,” he said. 

Chimene, with the League of Women Voters, feels that one of the reasons Texas has a lower rate of young adults who vote is because Texas does not allow online voting 

“Most young people and many other people, they are used to doing everything on the computer and on the phone and there is absolutely no reason at all that 40 other states have online voting registration and Texans don’t,” she said. 

The Travis County Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant agrees.

“Texas is very much behind the curve on this,” he said of the lack of online voting in the state. “What states are finding is it’s more cost effective, its more accessible for voters, its more accurate.” 

Elfant acknowledged concerns about hacking with an online system, which he rebutted saying an online voter registry would be behind the same firewall as the rest of the data the state keeps. He explained that for voter registration to go online in Texas, legislators would need to pass new laws. 

The Travis County Clerk’s Office said there has been a gradual increase of voter turnout on the UT campus since 2016, with a very large increase earlier in 2018. For that reason, their office, along with UT leadership, opted to add a second polling location on the 40 Acres this fall. In addition to the previous location at the Flawn Academic Center, a new location will be added at the Perry Castaneda Library. 

Students said this change was needed, they reported waiting in lines for around three hours to vote in previous elections. 

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