Roadrunners, voting matters

Isabella Briseno, Contributing Writer

Most UTSA students have walked in front of the McKinney Humanities building and been confronted with the same questions:

“Are you registered to vote?”

“Do you know when the next election is?”

These questions may come across as repetitive. However, in today’s political climate and in a place like Texas — a non-voting state — they are necessary questions. Texas must become a state whose residents reliably turn out at the polls informed.Luckily, there are many organizations in the Democracy From the Ground Up coalition working toward increasing voter participation in Texas. The coalition is devoted to modernizing voter registration, ensuring accessibility for all eligible voters, reducing waste and investing in security. The coalition plans to carry out this mission by fighting for 11 reforms in counties across the state.

One such reform would encourage and support school administrators in registering eligible high school students to vote.

Many people are unaware Texas law requires public and private high schools to distribute voter registration application forms to eligible students twice a school year, but how many people actually see this happen? It makes sense, considering many high school seniors are just becoming old enough to register to vote, and it would be incredibly easy to do.

Another reform affecting students calls for establishing polling locations on all collegecampuses with over 8,000 students during early voting and on Election Day in visible, high-traffic locations with accessible parking.

UTSA usually has an Election Day location, but it did not have an early voting site during the most recent state election. This meant that any student who did not have reliable transportation to an external polling site had to hope that they were not busy on Election Day. UTSA is lucky to have a polling location on Election Day at all — many universities in Texas don’t.

For students who can’t drive, voting becomes either impossible or so difficult that they become discouraged. If every campus has a consistent, accessible and highly visible polling place for every election, then voting will become much easier for students.

For people who do have access to polling places, there is still the barrier of transparency. When people are asked “Are you registered to vote?” on campus, a worrisome answer is often given: “I don’t know.” The solution proposed is to register again. The people who don’t know and aren’t asked may either not attempt to vote because of their uncertainty or get turned away at the polls because they thought they were registered but were not.

Democracy From the Ground Up suggests we mail voter registration forms to all eligible, unregistered people in the country in January of every even-numbered year. This way, the process of registration meets them at their door.These are just three of the 11 proposed reforms made by the coalition. Others aim to improve poll worker conditions, create a Civic Engagement Board of Advisors and to assist formerly incarcerated people in getting registered to vote. In a state with one of the lowest voter turnouts, it is crucial to help disenfranchised groups. Democracy From the Ground Up is devoted to enacting these broad reforms and ensuring that Texas will shift from a non-voting state to an informed and civically-engaged one.