UTSA’s main voting precinct, 3149, saw a increase in voter registration and in voter turn-out in this year’s presidential election. In the 2000 presidential election, precinct 3149 registered 834 voters and of that only 80 actually voted. In the 2004 election, precinct 3149 registered 999 voters with 496 voting. Of those nearly 1000 registered voters in 2004, 969 were UTSA faculty, staff and students.
“I think now, looking back, that this was perhaps the most successful student-driven, faculty-staff supported effort that UTSA has seen in the last decade.
“And I mean all of it- the Election Night Party, the Civic Awareness Week, the Voter Registration work, the working of UTSA policy, and the attempts to get an early voting polling site,” said Brian Johnson, administrative associate at the Career Planning and Placement Center.
Johnson played a significant role in planning and executing the Election Night Party, which brought in between 600 and 1000 people through the course of the night.
Freshman English major Casey Reagan recalled the party. “It was a blast. It got me in the spirit of the elections. Everyone came together for a common cause, even though we all had different views,” she said.
The party was held on Nov. 2, election night, from 7 p.m. to midnight, on the ground floor of the Main Building. Papa John’s donated pizza and Chartwells donated drinks. DVD players, t-shirts, gift certificates and backpacks were raffled off throughout the night.
Two auditoriums were equipped with big screen TVs. One, showing CNN, was designated the “Kerry Room.” The second, showing FOX News, was designated the “Bush Room.”
“The turnout was amazing. I could barely move through the crowd,” Carlos Cardenas, Student Government Association (SGA) vice president external, said. “My involvement in the elections was to get people to understand their responsibilities as citizens of our country.”
Cardenas sponsored an early voting shuttle to Stinson Middle School.
Of the 969 registered UTSA voters, more than 450 took advantage of the free shuttle. The shuttle transported voters from the north side of the UC to Stinson Middle School, and back to the UC in a matter of 40 minutes.
“The school made it much easier for me to vote. I was able to register for Bexar County through the school, and I was transported to the early polling site,” Reagan said.
For years UTSA has been rallying for an early voting site on campus, but the city has refused, claiming a lack of young voter turnout. Now with large numbers of registered voters and actual voters from UTSA, university representatives will once again request an early voting site on campus.
“This spring we will petition City Council to locate an early voting polling site at UTSA for the mayoral and City Council elections,” Johnson said.
Campus Party, which consists of student organizations and the Student Voting Coordinating Committee, plans to increase student voter registration and student voting at UTSA.
Johnson said, “We don’t agree on everything-but we do agree that voter registration and voting is paramount to a vibrant democracy, and vibrant democracy is essential to a free society. That’s what makes Campus Party work. The sole agenda is to increase student participation. We don’t tell students who to vote for, but we do try to tell students why voting is important.”
Freshman psychology major Brandon Beechan agrees. “Yes, I voted because it’s important to exercise my right to choose,” he said. “And I voted for Kerry.”
Beechan was “definitely disappointed and almost in fear” when he heard that Bush was re-elected. He believes that “we are a country of change. Lord knows we need one. We can’t keep doing things the way we have in the past.”
Beechan, originally from Houston, did not participate in the university-wide registration, early voting shuttling or the election night party; instead, he went home to vote, but said he did enjoy seeing others being encouraged to vote.
Freshman English major Justin Caynon was not phased by the re-election of President Bush. “I guess since I really didn’t root for either side, my expectations weren’t really much for either of them. By the end of the elections, I didn’t think either of them would live up to the expectations they wanted us to believe.”
Caynon did not vote in the 2004 election, saying that “if you can’t decide, then you shouldn’t vote.”
“Four more years,” chanted sophomore anthropology major Cody Baylen, as he sat in the auditorium reserved for Bush supporters. ” I was so thrilled to see Bush stay in office. I truly believe that he has done good, not only for the US but for the Iraqi economy.”
Baylen voted in the 2004 elections via the early voting shuttling, and he hopes to have a polling site on campus for the next elections. “Why do they put polls at schools that have kids that can’t even vote yet? It’s ridiculous. The way to encourage teenage voters is to make the polls more accessible. I am so proud to see my school participating and fighting for a site here.”