As the presidential election approaches, students are making plans to vote in person while staying safe during the pandemic.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced in July that early voting in person will begin three weeks before the election this year because of challenges caused by the pandemic. Only voters who are over 65, cite a disability or illness, are in jail or will be out of the county during the voting period will qualify to vote by mail in Texas.
According to the Travis County Clerk website, the polling locations on campus for early voting are Gregory Gym and the Flawn Academic Center.
Susan Nold, a communication studies senior lecturer, studies voting and citizenship, civic engagement, education and political knowledge, particularly among students and young people, according to the UT experts page. Nold said social distancing while voting will be easier to maintain because of this year’s longer early voting period.
“There will be a lot of good options to vote during the early voting period where there shouldn't be large crowds of people,” Nold said. “I think students should have comfort in knowing that in-person voting (can be a safe activity).”
Government and philosophy senior Eli Melendrez said with the widespread uncertainty surrounding voting by mail and safety measures in place at polling locations, he thinks voting in person is a safe and secure option.
“Students are the population that have historically not turned out to vote as much as we are representative of the population,” Melendrez said. “It's all on the line, and I think the importance of the election will turn people out.”
Melendrez, University Democrats communications director, said while registering voters on campus, the organization has encouraged students to make a plan to vote early and follow all health and safety guidelines, such as mask-wearing and social distancing.
“There's only so much we can do to warn the community,” Melendrez said. “I think the community has to come together. I have a lot of faith in the UT community that we value each other's safety enough to do something like wear a mask.”
Economics and journalism sophomore Grant Rommel said he is planning on informing members of College Republicans at Texas of safe voting measures and encouraging them to register to vote.
“I look forward to waiting in line with everybody and absolutely doing my part to maintain social distancing measures that are possible and wearing my mask the entire time,” said Rommel, president of College Republicans at Texas. “We want people to actually exercise their right to vote.”
Nold said this election will likely have a high turnout among college students because of recent enthusiasm among younger voters.
“It's impossible to live in the United States right now and not be paying attention,” Nold said. “It's kind of dominating. Presidential election years always increase the visibility of elections, but this year it seems like it's on everyone's mind.”