Primary election delay to deter UT student voters

Sylvia Butanda

After final exams end in May, some students may be more interested in summer vacation than political primaries, while others will still find a way to cast their vote.

With the recent Texas redistricting battle delaying the 2012 Texas primary elections for the presidential election to late May, student voting turnout may decrease. Even if students are out of town, however, voting can still be possible by requesting their ballots by mail, said Mary Fero, spokeswoman for the Travis County Clerk’s Elections Division. There have been reports that the primary will take place on May 29, Fero said. If this becomes the official date, early voting would begin on May 14, which is probably after most students’ semesters finish, but nonetheless, they have options that allow them to participate in voting.

“Any voter who is out of their registered county can request a ballot by mail, so the law provides some options there,” Fero said. “Students who aren’t registered in Austin have the option of voting in their hometown precinct or county.”

Paul Theobald, UT Votes spokesman and government and philosophy senior, said the earliest date to plan on Texas primaries is May 29, but even that date is not set, because of lack of consensus among the parties involved.

“Changing the schedule will most certainly affect the student population, as uncertainty leads to distraction and a smaller turnout,” Theobald said. “If it is moved to after school ends, many of the students who are registered to vote here may travel, or go home or be in a ‘summer mindset’ which would lessen the turnout.”

President of University Democrats Huey Fischer said students are going to be disenfranchised because the primaries are after finals.

“We expect numbers to drop significantly,” Fischer said. “The mission of political groups on campus like UDems and College Republicans is to turn out the youth vote. This news makes it extremely difficult to achieve that.”

Kathleen Wong, vice president of College Republicans at Texas, said voting is a civic duty to all citizens and students should take the time to vote whether the election is held during a time of convenience or not.

“I do believe, those who feel invested in the political world will be more likely to be out there voting despite certain conditions,” Wong said.

Printed on Friday, February 17, 2012 as: Late primary may reduce student votes