Runoff voting center to move from FAC to DKR

Raga Justin

Finals are upon UT-Austin, but civic engagement never stops. The primary runoffs are May 22 and early voting runs from May 14 to May 18, but you may have to work harder to cast your vote. 

Flawn Academic Center is typically UT-Austin’s only on-campus polling site. But due to a scheduling conflict, the center will not be available for early voting next week. Instead, students can head across campus to the Darrell K Royal Stadium, which will be a temporary polling location for the primary runoffs.

Ginny Ballard, a public information manager for Travis County, said DKR can hold a large volume of students and satisfies the power supply needs and safety requirements a polling center must meet.  

Ballard said she did not think the change of location would deter students from voting. 

“Students are pretty savvy and they know how to get around campus,” Ballard said. 

Ballard said the Travis County elections office was aware there would not be many students left on campus during the runoff election, but wanted to provide a polling location nevertheless. 

During election season this year, long lines wrapped around the FAC as students waited to cast their votes. The volume of traffic at the FAC was unusually high according to the Travis County Clerk’s Office: Voter turnout nearly quadrupled from 1,341 in 2014 to 4,365 during this year’s early voting period. It was the fourth-highest turnout in Travis County during early voting.

In light of this, Ballard said the county is working with the University to scout for an second polling location to be used along with the FAC to accommodate a high student voter turnout during the November midterm election.

“Finding a new polling location and setting it up is not an easy task. There’s a lot of things to be considered,” Ballard said. “We’re only the guests. If the space isn’t available, we have to go to other places.”

There are more than 30 primary runoffs across bipartisan lines. The most high-profile race is between Lupe Valdez and Andrew White for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. 

Marco Guajardo, a University Democrats member, said the organization will choose who to sponsor based on how they will affect student life.

“We think about which candidate best represents the values of our organization,” said Guajardo, a marketing sophomore. “It has very little to do with what you might call electability. We talk about how they’re best going to represent students and how they’re going to fight for student values and student issues.”

But while finals or early vacations may lower student turnout, a location change won’t turn off students that easily, Guajardo said. 

“I think any student that is turned off of voting because of a small change in location will already be turned off voting for some other reason, and it’s our job to reverse that,” Guajardo said. 

Karla Aguilar, Plan II and business freshman, said though she lives nearer to the FAC than DKR and will be in the midst of finals during early voting, she still plans on voting.

“I want to take an active role in my state’s politics,” Aguilar said. “A little extra effort won’t kill me.”