WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Efforts are underway to get more young people in Williamson County to vote.
Andrew Maglich recently graduated from Tom Glenn High School in Leander and soon after started a new group called Fresh Start Leander. The 18-year-old said it’s a non-partisan group challenging the notion that people his age are not engaged with their community.
“It’s probably where young people are the least involved in politics is local politics,” Maglich said. “You’re not going to see too many young kids at a City Council meeting or a school board meeting or talking to their local elected officials. People don’t pay too much attention to local politics, I think, and I think that’s something that should change because it’s what’s impacting you and me and everyone else most directly.”
On May 16, he spoke to the Leander City Council about his new organization and called on city leaders to do a better job of representing young people.
“I was pretty nervous,” Maglich said. “I was thinking: ‘I’m 18-years-old. I’m going to City Council. I’m going to tell all these older elected officials what they’re not doing right and what they should be doing, and they’re going to be like whose this kid telling us what to do?”
Fresh Start Leander may only have more than a dozen members right now, but Maglich plans to keep organizing and mobilize even more so that their concerns are heard at the ballot box and beyond.
“Young people here, they don’t typically run for office. They don’t typically get involved with organizing, so I think that’s somewhere where there’s a lot of work to be done,” Maglich said. “If no one else is going to do the work, then I should try my best to lead that.”
At Southwestern University in Georgetown, assistant political science professor Emily Sydnor is pushing to put a polling place there.
“There’s research out there that says if you have a polling place on campus, students are almost twice as likely to vote,” Sydnor said. “That’s fantastic, right?”
She went Tuesday to the Williamson County Commissioners Court to make her case. While it may be too late to make the university a polling site during an election later this year, there’s a possibility it could become one in 2020.
The university’s gym served as a mobile voting site for Williamson County during one day of early voting in November 2018. However, counties are no longer allowed to have temporary polling places like that after Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 1888 in June, which effectively ended mobile voting.
The new law requires any polling place to remain at the same location throughout the early voting period.
“Voting is habitual, so if we can get students to start doing that in an easy space, let’s try to do that,” Sydnor said. “Let’s get them turning out in Fall 2020 and build that pattern so that when they leave campus and when they move on to have jobs and live in other communities and all of these responsibilities that it’s really easy.”
Chris Davis, the Williamson County elections administrator, told KXAN Wednesday that his office will also distribute voter registration applications to every high school in the county ahead of the new school year in an effort to get more young voters on the rolls.