Texas Secretary of State launches statewide voter turnout initiative with first stop at UT

Forrest Milburn

Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos had his first stop in the Vote Texas campaign Wednesday morning at the UT campus to encourage voter participation and educate students on changes to the 2011 voter identification law.

The voter education outreach program from the Texas secretary of state’s office is aimed at increasing turnout among some of the lowest performing registered Texans, including millennials and college students.

In March, Texas voters defied a longstanding tradition of staying at home on election night by voting in record numbers for the 2016 primaries, when around 4.2 million Texans cast their votes for president and downballot races – the most in state history, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Despite the jump, Texas still lagged far behind other states around the nation in turnout during the primary season.

“We’re going to be happy with Texas as number one in a lot of things, but are we going to be content with Texas being near the bottom when it comes to votes?” said Cascos, a UT alumnus. “That’s not something to be proud of.”

After a federal appeals court ruled in July against the state’s law, which required specific forms of ID in order to cast
ballots, any registered voter can now head to the polls on Nov. 8 without a form of photo ID.

“This year in particular, more people than ever are getting more engaged in the political process, just by virtue of how tumultous this election this has been,” said Deanna Hausman, a biochemistry sophomore and vice president of UT Votes, a civic engagement student organization on campus. “Texas definitely has a lot farther to go, but it’s definitely awesome that this election has brought in so many new voters.” 

Texans who do not have one of the seven forms of photo ID, which includes a driver’s license, are now able to bring a utility bill or a paycheck with them to prove their identity, Cascos said.

According to a press release from the secretary of state’s office, Cascos and his team will be traveling the state through November educating voters in both English and Spanish about ID and other necessary information before they head to the polls.

Before the event, UT Votes handed out and picked up completed voter registration forms from students to turn into the Travis County
Tax Office.

Linguistics sophomore Robert DeMouy, an out-of-state student from Louisiana, said he decided to register to vote in Texas because he felt his vote would go “about as far as it would” in his home state.

DeMouy, who was registered Tuesday morning by UT Votes, said he believes reaching out to citizens in an effort to increase turnout is good for democracy, but the government shouldn’t use legislation to force anyone into voting.

“It’s your choice as a citizen of the United States to ignore the basic rights you have just as much as it is to exercise them,” DeMouy said.

The last opportunity to register is Oct. 11 with early voting, when voters will have the opportunity to decide the next president and a slate of local races, beginning
Oct. 24.