Boosting low turnout among young Texan voters
Mary Walker, president of the Student Government Association, decided to become a volunteer deputy registrar because it was convenient.
“It was on campus and it was quick,” Walker said. As a volunteer deputy registrar, Walker can distribute and accept voter registration applications.
Texas kicks off primary election season today, March 6, the earliest primary election date in the country. While it is too late to register to vote in the primaries, it is still possible to register in time for the midterm elections, which will be held on Nov. 6 of this year. The Voter Registrar’s office must receive registration applications at least 30 days before an election.
Only 1.8 million out of 13.6 million registered voters in Texas voted in the 2014 primaries. As of the 2016 election, Texas is ranked 44th in voter registration and 47th in voter turnout, according to the 2018 Texas Civic Health Index by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life.
While midterms are usually overlooked, this year’s elections include races for governor of more than thirty states, including Texas. As well as races for U.S. Senate, U.S. House representatives, state Senate representatives and Texas Board of Education members.
Volunteer deputy registrars like Walker and grassroots organizations like MOVE San Antonio try to help young people make an impact using their ability to vote.
H. Drew Galloway, executive director at MOVE San Antonio, believes that young adults of Texas have the ability to effect change.
“We help young people vocalize and fight for the issues that matter to them. When you come down to it, MOVE is ultimately a voting rights group,” Galloway said.
Based on age, young adults are the group least likely to vote in Texas. In the 2016 general election, only 48 percent of Texans from ages 18 to 24 were registered to vote and only 32 percent actually voted. 78 percent of Texans older than 65 were registered.
“Young people are paying attention and we know the message we’re using is working to get more young people voting,” Galloway said. “It’s just really taking the time to have those deep conversations and tell young people really, how powerful they are.”
MOVE San Antonio started as a student organization at the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2013. New chapters began to open up across different college campuses and the groups decided to join together and become a city-wide organization.
“Regardless of how they vote or what they believe in or what party they believe in, they really have a powerful voice as a generation,” Galloway said. “I think that you’re seeing young people beginning to exercise that.”
MOVE stands for mobilize, organize, vote and empower; MOVE San Antonio engages in voter and civic education to make every ballot count. The results speak for themselves.
“In 2016, we registered over 8,500 people, and 66 percent of them voted in the presidential election,” Galloway said. “71 percent of our database voted in the municipal election.”
“All I can do as an individual is register people to vote, I can’t persuade them,” Walker said. “Voting is important, but what I think is more important is being an educated voter.”
Bexar County residents interested in registering to vote can do so by visiting the Bexar County website, calling the Voter Registration office at 210-335-8683, or finding a volunteer deputy registrar to help.