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SGA hosts election showcase, party representatives agree students should vote

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At the recent election showcase, all the speakers agreed on one thing despite their partisanship: informed voting matters.

The event was hosted by the Student Government Association on Oct. 29.

Representatives from the two major parties — Democratic and Republican — and two of the minor parties – Libertarian and Green — explained why they think students should vote and stay informed.

“Don’t vote if all you’re going to do is just vote,” James Dickey, chair of the Travis County Republican said. “Be informed, then vote.”

J.D. Gins, the executive director of the Travis County Democratic Party, agreed with Dickey.

Kat Swift, member of the Green Party and candidate for Congress, and Patrick Dixon, former chair of the Libertarian Party of Texas, said that while their parties are small students should consider voting for either.

“The Libertarian party is the path less traveled by, but your vote can make all the difference,” Dixon said.

The panel also discussed issues selected by SGA.

They discussed education, immigration, human trafficking, leadership change in Texas and the economy.

Gins emphasizes that access to higher education is important and should be attainable without continuously skyrocketing tuition costs.

“The Democratic platform wants to fully fund education. A proposal is to make two years of community college education affordable, if not free, for students who do well in high school,” Gins said. 

Dickey said his party believes in opportunity for all students when it comes to higher education. While discussing his stance, he cited a recent statistic from the Texas Education Agency that reported the state is ranked first in the country for minority and low-income student high school graduation rates.

Dickey’s statement does not match the most recent U.S. Department of Education (DOE) report from 2013, which places Texas behind 19 states for Black student graduation rates and behind 11 states for Latino student graduation rates.

When asked about this discrepancy, Dickey said the statistic he cites measures graduation rates by dividing the number of students who graduated by the number of 8th graders five years earlier.

This is different than how the DOE measures graduation rates, which is by dividing the number of graduates by the number of 9th graders four years earlier. Dickey does not believe that the DOE’s measurement is the best. He said that the transition into high school can be difficult and that students are more likely to repeat 9th grade than any other grade.

Having choice in education is key according to Dixon.

“Having a choice is the key to empowerment, and is necessary in education,” Dixon said.

The panel then moved on to ask about immigration and human trafficking.

The Democrat believes that Congress needs strong, comprehensive immigration reform before local government can take proper action.

“People need to get across the border, but don’t have means to do that,” Gins said. “If we want to address human trafficking at its root cause, we need comprehensive immigration reform.”

Dickey said that since the state’s economy is strong, Texas can focus on immigration. He wants better border security and tougher consequences for human traffickers.

“If it’s all too easy to walk across the Rio Grande River, then it is all too easy to bring a boatload of slaves,” Dickey said. “It is an unbelievable human tragedy what we are letting happen on the border.”

The Libertarian said that law enforcement should end the “war on drugs” and focus on what he believes are more pressing matters, like human trafficking.

The Green representative had a similar take on immigration and human trafficking.

“If the war on drugs would switch to a war on trafficking, this problem would be solved,” Swift said.

Students can cast their ballots Tuesday.

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SGA hosts election showcase, party representatives agree students should vote