Hays County Commissioners Court to keep Texas State polling location following outcry

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Hays County Commissioners Court to keep Texas State polling location following outcry

A graph displaying voter turnout in Hays County since 2008. Photo credit: Jaden Edison

A graph displaying voter turnout in Hays County since 2008. Photo credit: Jaden Edison

Jaden Edison

A graph displaying voter turnout in Hays County since 2008. Photo credit: Jaden Edison

Jaden Edison

Jaden Edison

A graph displaying voter turnout in Hays County since 2008. Photo credit: Jaden Edison

Chase Rogers

A proposed list of voting centers excluding Texas State as a polling location spurred several organizations, concerned citizens and voting rights activists to voice their concerns Aug. 19 before the Hays County Commissioners Court.

Three hours of discussion over current standards set by other universities, students’ limited modes of transportation and students’ voting rights influenced the commissioners to reinstate the polling location during the meeting.

The contentious list of polling centers was introduced under the guise of incorporating countywide polling, which allows voters to cast a ballot at any voting center regardless of permanent location. Prior, only early voting allowed voters to participate at any location.

While support was strong for countrywide polling, several individuals took issue with the Texas State location listed as “To Be Determined.”

The special Aug. 19 public hearing was called by County Judge Ruben Becerra after polling locations were introduced and not discussed in the respective meeting due to an agenda discrepancy.

“I’ve called this workshop today because most of the community was excluded from this process,” Becerra said. “I am glad we are now taking the time to discuss it further because this is exactly what our residents have told me they wanted.”

Attendees included students from The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas State University and others. Various students, like UT Austin attendee Zachery Price, drew comparisons to Travis County and UT Austin.

“We were able to show (the Travis County Commissioners Court) a data-driven method that, based on the number of voters turning out in the campus area, the UT Austin campus area should have seven to eleven polling locations but only had one,” Price said. “The numbers basically back this up at every large university in the state.”

Price’s comment resonated with Texas State students who pushed for additional early voting days on campus during the 2018 midterms. The Hays County Commissioners Court then called a special meeting and unanimously approved extending early voting while being under a threat of litigious action, with four-hour long voting lines as a backdrop.

Texas State’s polling location, located in the LBJ Student Center, was reportedly plagued with long wait times during the 2018 midterm elections, operating for three days from 11 a.m.- 7 p.m.

These reports coincided with a significant increase in voter turnout for Hays County, as officials reported record-breaking numbers.

Compared to the last midterm election in 2014, Hays County saw a 20% increase in registered voters utilizing early voting in 2018. This shows the 2018 early voting percentage doubled in the past four years, clocking in 42% of the electorate using early voting in the last midterm.

UT Austin student Joe Cascino, president of University Democrats and political director of Texas College Democrats, said the proposed elimination of the Texas State polling location was at odds with the values of one of Texas State’s most notable alumni, Lyndon B. Johnson. Cascino then reaffirmed the importance of voting accessibility for younger voters.

“There is no legitimate reason in taking off the only polling place on campus, and I think L.B.J. would be rolling in his grave to see this happen,” Casino said. “(Young people) are the inheritors of the world, and we deserve a right to its future.”

Maxfield Baker, Texas State alumnus and San Marcos City Council Place 1 candidate, attended the meeting and criticized the date it was held, as it was before a majority of Texas State students move back to San Marcos.

“I think it is a devastating fact this meeting is happening before most of the Texas State students are back on campus and able to come here and represent themselves,” Baker said.

Baker praised two grassroots organizations for making a significant showing: MOVE Texas and Texas Rising.

“I am so thankful for all of the different organizations that came out to represent younger people,” Baker said. “MOVE Texas and Texas Rising showing up and being that voice for students who have yet to arrive were phenomenal.”

MOVE Texas is a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization aiming to advocate and mobilize underrepresented youth communities. Texas Rising is a nonpartisan program organizing, “young people of color in a multi-issue, intersectional social justice framework.”

The effects of these activist groups have been felt and noticed by Texas State Student Government, including Director of Government Affairs Alexa Browning, public administration junior.

“I am happy (the polling location) will be staying on campus,” Browning said. “It is really important we secure a spot on campus since, right now, we are not guaranteed all days of early voting.”

The re-affirming of this polling location has sparked excitement among various students, including music freshmen Lynncey Spencer, who plans to vote at the LBJ polling location come election time.

“I am very glad (the Hays County Commissioners Court) decided to keep the voting center,” Spencer said. “Many students don’t have a car, so how are they suppose to get to another polling location? The convenience of voting on campus is that it is right there, so you can go in between classes and won’t have to miss anything.”

The LBJ Student Center was officially named as a location for both early and election day voting. Room information and times will be announced closer to election dates.

The agenda and an archived video recording of the Aug. 19 workshop with the Hays County Commissioners Court are available on its website.

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