Everything’s bigger in Texas, it seems, except voter turnout. In the 2012 general election Texas only saw a 50.1 percent voter turnout, ranking it 48th among the nation. This isn’t unprecedented, as Texas has never ranked high among the states in voter turnout. Though in this election over 90 percent of eligible voters in Travis County are registered, adding to the 15 million registered Texan voters, these numbers don’t guarantee that the state will have a high turnout.
“There’s no point in having all of us out there [registering voters] if after people are registered they don’t go out there and vote,” Bailey Schumm, the director of Hook the Vote, said.
The only way to ensure that as many registered voters as possible become active voters is if they vote early. Early voting began Monday and continues through Nov. 4. After the 5th Circuit ordered a temporary fix to voter ID laws in Texas, early voting is easier than ever this year. All a voter needs to bring with them to verify their identity is a form of Texas ID (i.e. a driver’s license, or a US passport). If they can’t provide that, then they must sign a sworn affidavit and bring a current utility bill or another proof of residency. This makes it much easier for an out-of-state student who has yet to obtain a Texas driver’s license to vote, as they cannot present an out of state license at the polls.
Early voting is a way for students to get voting out of the way and to incorporate it with their class schedule rather than getting stuck at seemingly endless lines at the FAC on Election Day.
Last year on Election Day and on the three days leading up to Election Day the lines in the FAC were winding around the building, back through the Union,” Schumm said.
Voting early is the only sure way to give students enough time to cast their ballots during breaks between classes because they have more flexibility in terms of when they can vote. During early voting, residents can vote at any early voting location within their county. On Election Day, residents can only cast their ballot at the single voting precinct assigned to them, meaning many students would lose the opportunity to vote on campus at the FAC.
Between now and Nov. 4, Hook the Vote and other campus organizations will be reminding students to vote early through social media posts. Unlike voter registration, where they can walk students through the process of filling out a form, volunteers can’t walk students through the voting line and ensure they vote. Instead students must vote early on their own to ensure that Texas has a high voter turnout that accurately reflects the 15 million eligible voters in the state.
Berdanier is a philosophy junior from Boulder, Colorado. Follow her on Twitter @eberdanier