Student organizations work to increase student access to voting

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Photo Credit: Sofia Reyes | Daily Texan Staff

With early voting available at two locations on campus, political student organizations have worked to reduce the obstacles students face when voting to ensure their voices are heard. 

Before early voting began Oct. 13, students were making plans to safely vote in person during the pandemic while also not overwhelming their schedules. As of Tuesday, over 11,300 people have cast their ballots on campus since Oct. 13, according to the Travis County Clerk website.

Ria Bhasin, academic policy co-director for Student Government, said SG, Hook the Vote and the Senate of College Councils are pushing for excused absences from classes on Election Day Nov. 3. SG introduced the resolution last year advocating for students to be granted absences this November.

“Even taking that next step and canceling class on Election Day, so that students who may have not been able to vote during the early voting period or have more complications and they need to vote on Election Day have that option,” public health sophomore Bhasin said.

Bhasin said SG and Hook the Vote want to ensure no barriers block students from voting, including class schedules.

“There's a lot of students already very, very encouraged to go vote, especially this time around,” Bhasin said. “It's just a matter of breaking down those barriers that are definitely there to suppress that vote, and to ensure that students have those accessible ways to go out and vote.”

 

Gabrielle Braziel, voter outreach officer for Hook the Vote, said it’s important for students to be able to take the time to vote without being penalized for missing class. 

Braziel said Hook the Vote is also maintaining a social media presence to make sure students know how and where to vote.

“We push student voters to vote, whether on campus or back home,” government junior Braziel said. “This election year is really important, so it is very important to have students be able to have the opportunity and to exercise their civic duties by either voting or working as poll workers. Our vote does have an influence on our lives. If we want the change, then we should take part in the right to vote.”

Eli Melendrez, University Democrats communications director, said the organization has worked with TX Votes, another student organization which encourages student voters, on social media initiatives to encourage students to vote. He said they have moved initiatives online for safety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our operations are definitely taking a hit because, understandably, a lot of people are worried about being out there and spreading or catching the coronavirus,” Melendrez, a government and philosophy senior, said. “We're having to be more creative in our online presence to accommodate for that lack of on-the-ground presence, but it's easier in the sense that everyone seems to be excited to vote (this year).”