Campus voter registration drive attracts nearly 200 students

It’s more than a little unusual to see a Bernie Sanders fan and a Campus Republican member working side by side, but that’s exactly what seniors Oliver Guerra and Chris Wagner were doing Friday afternoon at the voter registration drive on campus.

The pair sat behind a table littered with pens and yellow voter registration cards as students stopped by individually and in groups throughout the day to make the big deadline: Monday, Feb. 1 was the last day to register to vote in the primary elections.

“Voting is a very important thing that we have. It is a right that we need to exercise,” said Jennifer Jefferson, the professor responsible for organizing the drive. “I want to encourage as many young people as possible to engage in these significant political discussions that will have an impact on their future.”

Guerra and Wagner are both certified voter deputy registrars, meaning they are trained to help people register to vote. They said the training took only an hour to complete and was administered by the Travis county tax assessor.

“I wanted to get involved in this election. I think it’s an important one,” Wagner said. “I wanted to increase student involvement this semester.”

Wagner, a senior who co-founded the Students for Sanders group on campus with junior Jenna Falgout, said that he became a certified VDR through the Sanders campaign, but that the effort to get students to register to vote was “totally bipartisan.”

He explained that it was really easy to become a registrar — the Travis County tax assessor administers classes to groups of 10 or more people interested in attending the training.

Monday was the second day of the drive, which began Friday and lasted the five hours between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. 

Wagner said that almost 200 students in total registered to vote with them; they had between 85 and 90 students register last week and reported that more than 86 students registered Monday.

By 4 p.m. Monday, they had run out of yellow voting forms which are specifically for Travis County residents, and instead had to administer white mail-out forms to students, which each individual applicant had to drop off at the post office on their own.

Guerra, an SGA senator and intern at the Republican Party of Texas, said that he wanted to get involved because he thinks it is important to combat our country’s poor voter turnout rate.

“I think it’s important because historically, the U.S has had a bad voter turnout rate and I think it’s important for a successful democracy to have all eligible voters informed and registered.”

Jefferson, who was teaching an American Dilemmas class Monday afternoon, allowed her students to leave class briefly to register to vote.

Sophomore Robin Skelton, one of Jefferson’s students, took the opportunity along with several other of her classmates to stop by the table by the seal to register to vote. She said that she thought voting was a valuable way for citizens to express their views in a meaningful way.

“People have so many opinions,” Skelton said about the race for the presidency. “If you have an opinion, you can do something about it.”

Early voting begins on Feb. 16 and extends through Feb. 26. According to Texas’ Secretary of State’s website, “registered and eligible voters may vote at any early voting location located in the county of residence.” Voters will be able to find ballot locations closer to the early voting date.