UT-Austin students forgo mail-in ballots, travel home to cast 2020 election votes

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Photo Credit: Emma George | Daily Texan Staff

During the primary elections in March, Alyssa Crosby sent her application for an absentee ballot far in advance. When she called the election clerk in her home of Tarrant County, they said they never received her application. 

Crosby had enough time to reapply for her ballot during the primary, but she said she isn’t taking any chances for the general election. To ensure her vote counted, she took the three-hour trek north to her home in Mansfield, Texas, to vote last week.

UT students who are registered in their hometowns must either travel back to vote or cast an absentee ballot to vote in what some experts call “the most consequential election ever.” However, uncertainty has grown around mail-in ballots in Texas, as a legal battle over ballot drop-off locations continues, and political figures question the legitimacy of mail-in ballots.

While experts say absentee ballots are completely safe and there is no evidence linking mail-in ballots to widespread voter fraud, some students have chosen to travel home to vote to ensure their vote is counted.

Crosby, a government and journalism senior, said the politicization of mail-in ballots made her uncomfortable voting by mail.

“Because of (all the uncertainty), as well as my own experiences in the past, I for sure want my vote to count,” Crosby said. “So I was like, ‘I’m just going to go and stay a week or so at home and vote in person.’”

Crosby said she arrived at her polling place over an hour before the polls opened at 8 a.m., but she did not cast her ballot until 9:45 a.m.

Mechanical engineering junior Samuel Steinman-Friedman said he stayed registered at his home in Sugar Land, Texas, because he did not want to change addresses every year when moving to different apartments. He said he went home to vote last weekend, and he waited for about an hour.

“Voting is definitely more difficult than it should be,” Steinman-Friedman said. “There’s way too many hoops to jump through. I made this joke to my dad while waiting in line (to vote) — if I can fill out the census online, I should be able to vote online.“

 

Currently, Texas law allows citizens 65 or older or those with a disability to vote by mail. Voters who are out of their district, such as students in college away from home, during an election can request an absentee ballot, according to the Texas Secretary of State website.

Radio-television-film junior Colin Spalten said potential delays with the U.S. Postal Service convinced him to vote in person at his home in San Antonio, Texas. Spalten said he doesn’t feel like it’s a big burden to return home, since he gets to visit his family and dog for a few days.

“I worry about (my ballot) arriving on time,” Spalten said. “I mean, I worry about an Amazon package arriving on time, so I’d rather personally do my vote in person, just for that assurance.” 

Voting is a family occasion for business freshman Fatima Raja, who drove home Saturday to cast her vote in Tomball, Texas. Raja said she specifically wanted to make her vote count in the House of Representatives race in Texas’ 2nd Congressional District, and she was glad to do it alongside her family. 

“In my family, everyone goes to vote together,” Raja said. “It’s my first time voting in a presidential election, and I didn’t want to just have to mail in my ballot. (Afterward), we went downtown, got some ice cream and (went to) a park to play frisbee.”