Student groups hustle to energize voters ahead of coming primary elections

Chad Lyle

Only 30 percent of registered voters in the state turned out for the most recent primary elections in March of 2016, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office. In an effort to reverse this trend of low enthusiasm for primaries amongst American voters, several student groups are making an effort to bolster voter turnout on campus.

Marco Guajardo, communications director for University Democrats, said he is confident the primary season will be more energetic.

“Our main goal is boosting turnout among students,” said Guajardo, a marketing sophomore. “We’re having conversations about the importance of staying civically engaged well past the contentious 2016 election.”

Taylor Frontera, vice president of College Republicans, said many of their primary-focused efforts have involved voter registration.

“We deputized three of our board members and have been helping in the effort to get students registered for the elections,” said Frontera, an international relations junior.

Students for Beto — which supports Democratic senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke — has also been busy registering voters and selling merchandise.

“We registered kids to vote up until the deadline,” said SFB president Dhvani Shukla, undeclared freshman. “And I’ve sold over 50 yard signs.” 

Of course, groups hoping to boost voter turnout are not limited to partisan organizations. Sarah Herzer, the president of TX Votes, said there is reason to be optimistic about turnout across the board.

“We have registered so much of the student body to vote,” Herzer said in an email. “It is also a year where a Senate seat is open, and national politics seem to always interest students more than state or local issues.” 

TX Votes will be hosting a “Parade to the Polls” on March 1 to encourage turnout. Student body president Alejandrina Guzman, a Mexican–American studies and government senior, will kick off the parade with a speech at Gregory Plaza. 

Guajardo said UT and the nation are seeing unprecedented political involvement from young people. 

“When people even know there’s an election going on, they’re more likely to vote,” Guajardo said. “We saw this last year on Election Day 2017. Most students had no idea there was a bond election that day. By evening, there was a line wrapped around the FAC to vote on a ballot with 0 candidates, only propositions and constitutional amendments.”