Young voters in Texas cast ballots in record numbers in 2020 general election

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Photo Credit: Sierra Wiggers | Daily Texan Staff

There was no line at the Flawn Academic Center and Gregory Gymnasium on the UT campus when Texas’ polls closed at 7 p.m. on election night Tuesday. The poll workers at Gregory Gymnasium had already begun taking down tables and cleaning up by 7:05 p.m.

Poll worker Sri Chappidi said the wait time at Gregory Gymnasium was a maximum of 10 minutes during the day. 

“It was definitely not as many people as I expected, and I really do think that's because so many people turned out from early voting that we never had a huge line,” computer science senior Chappidi said. “I'm pretty confident that a lot of people have already voted, and I think students especially voted early.”

More than 1 million young people in Texas under the age of 30 cast their ballot during early voting until Oct. 27, making up about 82% of the total votes cast by young people in Texas in 2016, according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. Total youth turnout in Texas from Nov. 3 has not been determined yet.

Physics graduate student Herbie Smith was a poll worker during early voting from Oct. 17 to 30. Smith said thousands of people voted early at Gregory Gymnasium.

“It was exciting, particularly at Gregory Gym, seeing a whole lot of first-time voters come through,” Smith said. “There was a lot of enthusiasm this (election) cycle.”

Jeremi Suri, a history and public policy professor, said young voters had a more active role in the national conversation and have partially contributed to Texas’ slowly changing voting demography.

“Young people of all parts of Texas, cities big and small, who came out for the Black Lives Matter protests changed the conversation in the state,” Suri said. “Black Lives Matter protests that were led largely by young people … made a huge difference and changed the tone of this campaign … and that has a big effect.”

Neuroscience freshman Amanda Garcia is a member of Hook the Vote, an agency within UT’s Student Government meant to increase civic engagement among students. Garcia said it was refreshing to see students on campus be engaged in the election.

“The environment on campus is pretty cool because as someone who tries to be as politically engaged as possible, it's really cool to see a bunch of other people on campus rallying (and) pushing for civic engagement,” Garcia said.

Garcia said the organization and the UT Senate of College Councils will be continuing to contact representatives to pass legislation in Texas that will enable every public college with a population of over 10,000 students to have at least one polling station on campus.

“No matter what the outcome is, we have to keep fighting, and we have to keep pushing because elections will never get easier,” Garcia said. “Our job will never end.”