Hilltoppers Vote: Overview of Student Agenda results, electoral candidates’ plans for prevalent issues

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St. Edward’s students shared the issues they care most about. Racial equality and environmental issues are the two topics Hilltoppers want to see candidates address.

In a recent survey by Hilltoppers Vote, we asked the St. Edward’s community of students, faculty, staff and alumni to answer a few questions regarding the upcoming 2020 election.  

Based on a total of 162 responses, over 78% of respondents are registered to vote. In a recent partnership with Texas Public Interest Research Group and StudentPIRG New Voters Project, we plan to inform and help register Hilltoppers.we will help 23% of St. Edward’s community members who are not registered complete their voter registration in time for the 2020 election.

With over half of the respondents registered to vote in Travis County, Hilltop Views’ election coverage will be geared toward Travis County residents while also focusing on state races. However, we will direct Hilltoppers outside of those county lines to voting sources in their local community. Of the 23% community members who needed help voting, Hilltop Views and StudentPIRG New Voters Project was successful in registering 22%.

According to Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughes’ office, to qualify for a mail-in ballot you must be “65 years or older; sick or disabled, be out of the county on election day and during the period for early voting by personal appearance or be confined in jail.”

Based on those who participated in the survey, 95% said that racial equality is one of their top concerns, with environmental issues following at 90%. 

Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s (D) plans for the United States to have “a 100% clean energy economy is not only an obligation, it’s an opportunity.” Biden’s plans include investment in climate research and clean energy innovations “across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by climate change.” Presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) has relaunched the smart sector program. This program “analyzes data and advises options for environmental improvement, and develops reports that profile the impact of each sector.” The Smart Sectors Program also allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  to streamline practices and operations. 

Candidates for Senate, MJ Hegar (D) and current senator John Cornyn (R) have made that stance on the environment. Hegar wants to “set aggressive goals for the expansion of clean, renewable energy, and invest in clean energy manufacturing and sustainable transportation.” Hegar also wants to modernize the energy grid to handle usage during peak hours. While in senate, Cornyn “supported efforts to encourage conservation while increasing the responsible production of our domestic sources of fossil fuels, and exploring alternative sources to make our nation more energy secure.” Coryn also supports policies to help the economy while also protecting public health.   

Candidates for Railroad Commissioner, Chrysta Castañeda (D) and James Wright (R), are two prominent Texas politicians who have a say on protecting our earth. Castañeda plans to “enforce the laws already on the books protecting our air and water, including the laws against flaring of natural gas.” As for water reclamation, Castañeda vows to “promote the reclamation and reuse of our water resources used in fracking operations.”James Wright’s first goal as Railroad Commissioner is to secure the U.S. border to protect the oil and gas industry. His hope for the oil and gas industries is to “put billions of dollars in tax revenue into local and state infrastructure projects.” Wright shares no specific plans for protecting the environment, but plans on “ensuring a safe, clean environment for us and future generations.”

As for Travis County Sheriff candidates, Sally Hernandez (D) and Raul Vargas (R) have opposing views on policing in Austin. Hernandez has created a “Sexual Assault Unit whose exclusive mission is to investigate and provide specialized care.” She also speaks on the importance of “train[ing] deputies and corrections officers to identify and de-escalate mental health crisis incidents,” and find alternatives to arresting those with mental health issues. Hernandez also advocates for “responsible, common sense laws.” Opponent Vargas campaigns on “enforcing ICE detention requests” and supports the Second Amendment. Vargas also understands, as sheriff, the “obligation to educate, provide training, and to protect our citizens in the event of an active shooter.”

Running for milder punishments for non-violent offenses and police reform, Travis County DA candidate Jose Garza has plans to defeat his republican opponent Martin Harry. In an interview with the Austin-American Statesman Garza said “he would opt for treatment over incarceration for defendants with drug problems… and bring police shootings and police misconduct cases before a grand jury.” During her current time as the county’s DA, Moore’s office instigated a civil rights division to handle cases like those of George Floyd’s. 

Hilltop Views will continue to provide coverage during the 2020 election season and occurrences following election.