Students register new voters on campus as Election Day approaches

Sarah Philips

With Election Day and the deadline for voter registration just around the corner, political organizations across campus have been flagging down students and helping them fill out yellow forms with one goal in mind — register as many voters as possible.

Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day, and volunteer deputy registrars celebrated by tabling around campus. 

Psychology sophomore Sam Brewer is a resident assistant in Brackenridge. She joined a group of San Jacinto RAs to register students to vote at a table on 21st Street. They offered free snow cones as an incentive for students to register. 

Brewer said she enjoys being a VDR because she wants to help other young people realize their importance in the political process.

“I think that people in our generation don’t consider how important their voice is,” Brewer said. “I’ve been paying bills since I was 16, so I think it’s very important that we are registered because our voices do matter.”

Brewer said they had some success in registering students, but a lot of people avoided the VDRs.

“Unfortunately, we get a lot of averted eyes, people looking down at their phones,” Brewer said. “I know this election and situation kind of sucks, but I think if you hold people accountable to speaking their voice and being able to represent how they view the world, that’s more important than someone being on Twitter.”

Public relations junior Joseph Trahan, communications director for University Democrats, said the organization is currently focusing on voter registration.

“Our goal is to register as many students as possible and to push students to the polls to support the candidate that we endorsed, which is Hillary Clinton,” Trahan said.

Women’s and gender studies senior Richelle King is the president of Texas Rising, a progressive group on campus that advocates for reproductive, LGBT and voting rights. Texas Rising has been tabling in the West Mall since the primaries, encouraging students to vote. King said increasing political participation among young people is the reason she became a VDR. 

“Texas has extremely low voter turnout rates especially among millennials, so it’s really imperative that folks like us that are VDRs engage our peers in the voting process,” King said. 

According to the Texas Tribune, Texas ranked 49th in voter turnout during the primary season, only beating the state of Louisiana, which had a closed primary election — meaning voters had to register as a Democrat or Republican before they could cast their ballot. 

King also said local elections were important, even though a contentious presidential election is capturing most people’s interest. 

“I think [local] elections have a more direct impact on constituents so we educate people on when state and local elections happen as well, especially because we live in Austin,” King said. “The Capitol is right there we can talk to our representatives and our senators. Sometimes they live in our neighborhoods, so I really want to make sure people know about all the different kinds of voting especially local.”

Texas Rising is collaborating with other organizations for a voter registration rally on Oct. 11, which is the last day to register to vote in Texas. King said there will be puppies, prizes and food, all of which she hopes will encourage people to turn out to vote.