Youth voter apathy hurts Texas on Election Day

Noah M. Horwitz

As surprising at it may be to read, there was an election last week. And, as the Texan Editorial Board and I have both opined before, students should have voted, both in local issues going on back home and on the many bonds and questions that were posed to Austin voters.

Sadly, it appears that UT students ­— and indeed almost all young people — did not do so. According to one estimate, turnout among people 18 to 24 in Houston’s recent municipal elections, which boasted the highest overall turnout of any mayoral election in recent memory, comprised a lowly 1.5 percent of the electorate, with the median age a little below 65.

Closer to home, the results were arguably worse. Travis County Precinct 208, which hosts many on-campus dorms, saw 153 voters altogether. Precinct 277, situated in the heart of West Campus, saw 140. In a year in which a bond measure for a new courthouse failed by less than two percent of the vote, even a modest uptick in voting could have had profound implications for Austin.

In Houston, the prognosis is even more bleak. With the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) going down in flames at the ballot box, the fourth-largest city in the country is already receiving backlash. The NCAA announced that the College Football Playoff game will not be in Houston for the foreseeable future, and an active Twitter campaign ­— including the hashtag #BoycottHouston — has already taken to denigrating my hometown. 

For many young Houstonians, the choice was very clear. Instead of waiting to vote, many waited in long lines to eat Krispy Kreme donuts. With the donut shop reopening in Houston on Election Day, patrons lined up around the store and “cars stretched for several blocks,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

Voting has consequences. Even more important, being too lazy to put down the blunt and the Funyuns long enough to occupy a voting booth has consequences. Of all the students crowing about campus carry, how many of them bothered to vote in last year’s gubernatorial election? Gov. Greg Abbott was a vociferous proponent of the idea while on the campaign trail.

The same consequences will stem from non-participation this time around as well. If students need to engage the dreaded county bureaucracy in some way, including dealing with a woefully outdated county courthouse, they will only have themselves to blame.

Much ink was spilled by Student Government candidates last election — which, not coincidentally, also had pathetic turnout — on ways to make it easier for students to vote, such as by using a Student ID as official identification at the polling place. Perhaps they should have focused on ways to make Krispy Kreme more accessible to students instead.

Horwitz is a government senior from Houston. Follow him on Twitter @NmHorwitz.