Yes, your vote matters

Kathie Tovo, Contributor

Editor’s Note: This column was submitted to the Texan by a member of the UT community.

It may not be a presidential election year, but voting in the 2022 midterms Nov. 8 will help shape the future of our democracy.

If that sounds dire, it’s because we’re living in dire times. As a lifelong Democrat, I am deeply disappointed by the actions taken by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas Legislature in recent years that favor extreme, far-right ideologies.

I’m hopeful, though, that the national uptick in student voting will continue this election year. As the Washington Post reported in August, 66% of registered student voters cast ballots in the 2020 election — a 14% increase over the 2016 presidential election. The 2018 midterm elections drew 40% of student voters, more than doubling the turnout in the 2014 midterm election. 

Increased student voter participation in 2020 helped Democrats regain control of the White House as well as the U.S. House and Senate. 

If you’re not sure whether your vote matters, consider a couple of major outcomes of the 2020 election: President Biden delivered on his promises to implement a student debt forgiveness plan and to appoint the first Black woman justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. Your vote and your voice made the difference! 

Student voters can make a statement this year, too, from the top of the ballot  down to the local level in Austin, where the mayoral position and five City Council seats (including mine!) are on the ballot. Austin voters will also consider a $350 million housing bond to benefit low- and moderate-income people and families. 

Your City Council and your local state legislators have historically supported reproductive rights and other progressive measures that enjoy strong support from students. 

The same cannot be said of the rest of our state officials, however. 

Our Texas governor and the majority of our Texas Legislature have remained laser-focused on abortion restrictions. Last year, despite valiant opposition from your local state delegation, the state legislature passed one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation, prohibiting the procedure at six weeks, even in cases of rape or incest.

They have failed to enact reasonable gun regulations to protect Texans, including those of you living and attending classes on university campuses. In 2016, I marched to the Texas Capitol with Gun Free UT against the legislature’s passage of campus carry, and we rallied again on the West Mall later that year to urge UT to prohibit guns in UT classrooms. And we rallied again at the March for Our Lives — and many other times in the years before and since. Together, we have called on our legislature for a ban on assault weapons, for the ability for campuses to prohibit guns, for better background checks and other reasonable measures. We’re still waiting. 

Elections matter. Your votes matter. 

So, gather all your friends, and go vote. And I hope you’ll continue all the way down the ballot and help select your next District 9 City Council Member.

Early voting starts Monday, Oct. 24, and runs through Friday, Nov. 4. I plan on voting early, and I hope you do, too. For the future of our democracy. 

Kathie Tovo is an Austin City Council member and former Longhorn (M.A. and Ph.D., American Studies). From 2015-2018, she served as the city’s mayor pro tem. She will finish her term representing District 9 in January 2023.