A national political organization recognized members of the student voter advocacy organization TX Votes for helping increase student voter turnout in the 2018 midterm elections.
The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a nonpartisan organization that supports and recognizes colleges, students and faculty for promoting political engagement, said Catherine Fish, associate director for the challenge. The University’s voting turnout for eligible student voters improved to 65.6% in 2018 from 23.5% in 2014, according to a University press release.
The University earned the award for most improved voter rate among large public universities, according to ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge’s website.
Kassie Phebillo, fifth year doctoral student in the University’s communication studies program, said TX Votes implemented a classroom voter registration program in 2018 which saw over 250 classrooms, from small classes to lecture halls, register to vote.
Phebillo said the organization also hosted voter registration events to increase voter turnout, such as Vote Fest, which involved organizations in the Civic Engagement Alliance. The alliance, which is managed by TX Votes, contains over 110 UT student organizations that are committed to engaging their members in the voting process, she said.
Phebillo won the outstanding graduate student award for helping increase voter turnout. She said TX Votes hopes to get involved with more University events.
“A lot of the ways where we would like to improve, we would need a lot of support from the University,” Phebillo said. “For the first time this fall, we were invited to Mooov-In, and we registered close to a thousand people … we are hoping to get included into more of those processes.”
Maya Patel, former TX Votes president, was awarded the Student Honor Roll award for helping increase voter turnout. Patel, a chemistry senior pursuing a certificate in public policy, said seeing how many students voted as a result of their efforts is a testament to the difference students can make.
“It’s incredible that we were able to turn out students in a midterm election at rates that are seen in presidential elections,” Patel said. “This proves that young people do vote, and when we make sure that young people have access to be able to vote, they do.”
Fish said although student voter turnout saw a resurgence in 2018, student voters need to be constantly engaged throughout their lives.
“People need to be engaged democratically on an ongoing basis, during and between elections,” Fish said. “That’s the only way to help realize the goals and vision of full participation among students.”