Election season is approaching quickly and so is the deadline to register to vote. Your vote this fall may matter more than it ever has before — whether it’s through the presidential election, the United States Senate election, the Austin City Council election or through the countless other races on the ballot this November, we have the potential to shape local, state and national history as we know it.
I spoke with Bruce Elfant, the Travis County tax assessor-collector and voter registrar, to make sure I got not only the logistical information students need to know, but also why this election season is so critical. You can read excerpts from our conversation below.
The Daily Texan: What is the deadline to register to vote in November for Travis County, and is that deadline to register to vote by mail different?
Bruce Elfant: Yes. The register to vote is just getting your voter registration. The vote by mail is a different issue. The registration deadline is Monday, Oct. 5. What we don’t want to encourage people to do is mail their voter registrations in at the last minute because they might get burned this year. This year’s not the year to procrastinate. If you need to register to vote or update your address, we encourage people to do it now.
DT: Is texting REGISTER to iVOTE and completing the voter registration application online the easiest way to register that you know of right now?
BE: Yes, it is, because you don’t have to leave your house or your dorm room. We do use the mail for “Text to Register,” but when we get to about a week before the deadline, they will receive a message about alternative ways to register and they will have to go obtain a registration application and fill it out and turn it in directly to a volunteer deputy registrar. That would be the preferable way to do it at that point because we just can’t guarantee postal delivery on the deadline.
We encourage people to register now. If you’re going to be close to the deadline, the Tax Office is going to be open till midnight on Monday, Oct. 5, and we will have other locations that we’re going to announce pretty soon where people can go on the last weekend and the last day to personally turn in their cards. If they're concerned about being out in public with the pandemic, the “Text to Register” is a really good option, and they can do it now and we're not worried about them getting registered at this point.
DT: Every time you move to a new apartment or you move to a new place in Austin, you have to register to vote again, right?
BE: Yes, you do. If you move literally from apartment 101 to apartment 103 across the hall, you have to update your address, or your mail won't get to you — your voter registration application or any other election information. You’re supposed to update every time you move, and that's why probably 30% of the people we're registering are updating their addresses.
DT: Why is it so important for college students to register to vote?
BE: It’s their future. The decisions that local governments especially are going to make are going to profoundly impact younger people the most. When you talk about affordability for college and student tuition and housing, all those kinds of issues are being decided by local governments. It's just vital and critical for young people to participate and help shape the community and the national policies.
To register to vote, text REGISTER to iVOTE (that’s the letter i, not the number one) and complete the voter registration application online as soon as possible.
Caldwell is a Latin American studies and journalism senior from College Station, Texas. She is the editor-in-chief.