Planning to vote in November? Make sure to register today

Sami Sparber

Today is the last day to register to vote in the 2018 Texas midterms. 

Texas set a new voter registration record of 15.6 million people ahead of the upcoming election, said Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos last week. Bruce Elfant, Travis County’s voter registrar, said 92.6 percent of all eligible citizens in the county were registered in 2016, and the county is on track to break that record this year.

“We expect we will exceed 93 percent this year,” Elfant said. “With all this voter activity going on, it feels more like a presidential election year than a gubernatorial election year.”

Joshua Blank, manager of polling and research at UT’s Texas Politics Project, said several factors contribute to increased interest in voter registration.

“The national environment is … relentless in focusing people on politics and (focusing) on politics for longer,” Blank said. “In addition, Texas has a high-profile Senate race between Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz that’s drawing a lot of local and
national attention.”

Blank said the number of competitive races for seats in the federal and state legislature is also influencing voter enthusiasm in Texas.

“The fact that Democrats have nominated candidates in most Texas House and Senate districts means that voters who might not have even had a chance to vote in a competitive election now get the chance to,” Blank said.

Elfant said he’s encouraged by the increase in voter enthusiasm and hopes it translates to increased voter turnout.

“It’s not good enough just to register to vote,” Elfant said. “You have to follow through and actually vote. There’s so much at stake in this election, with different candidates wanting to take our community and country in different directions. It’s up to the citizens to decide which direction they’d rather see us move toward — that’s how democracy is supposed to work.”

Maya Patel, vice president of TX Votes, has spent months registering students to vote. Patel said there is no excuse for students not to register and vote.

“If you have the power to vote, it’s more than just your civic duty to vote,” chemistry junior Patel said. “If there’s anything going on that upsets you, whether it’s something as small as how much traffic there is in Austin to … any large, federal issue, you can not complain about it unless you vote and unless you participate.”