Travis County sets goal to register 90 percent of eligible voters

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Students register to vote outside of Gregory Gymnasium on Monday Feb. 1 2016.
Photo Credit: Emma Acosta | Daily Texan Staff

Travis County is aiming to register 90 percent of the county’s eligible citizens to vote before Election Day, which would break a record, according to the Travis County Tax Office.

Bruce Elfant, Travis County’s tax assessor and voter registrar, started the initiative last September. To meet its goal, the county must register 15,000 more voters by the end of September, Voter Registration Month.

The county currently has almost 700,000 voters, according to the county’s tax office. The county needs exactly 715,495 registered voters in order to meet the goal. 

“Texas prides itself in being bigger at everything, but it is small when it comes to casting ballots to elect our leaders and deciding about ballot initiatives, such as bonds that tax homeowners and changes in laws,” Elfant said in a statement. 

As for the UT campus, organizations are working on “get out the vote” campaigns to get students registered to vote. 

UT Votes is an organization on campus that organizes events and voter education programs to increase political engagement on campus. Deanna Hausman, UT Votes vice president, said the organization is participating in Voter Registration Month by competing with other schools to register voters. 

“UT is a National Voter Registration Day flagship school,” Hausman said. “UT Votes and the Civic Engagement Alliance is helping coordinate that. Basically, we’re in a competition to see what schools can register the most voters.”

Hausman also said the organization reaches out to potential voters on campus by tabling at fairs, Party on the Plaza and orientation. UT Votes also provides voter registration services to organizations upon request.

Hausman said they often work with the Civic Engagement Alliance, a group of organizations aiming to get students more politically involved. Organizations in the alliance include Longhorn Band, UT Residence Life and Hook the Vote. Hausman also mentioned that she works with University Democrats and Texas Rising when the organization is registering voters. 

Hausman believes students are often ignored due to lack of involvement in the political process. She said that if students get more involved and vote, they could be more impactful.

“Students have some of the worst voter turnout numbers, so sometimes we’re not listened to,” Hausman said. “But if we did vote, I believe we could be a powerful force to change our communities and country for the better.”

Hausman also said that the current presidential election is having an effect on how politically motivated students are on campus. 

“I think students really understand how important this election is and how much it’s going to affect our future, so they’re much more interested in discussing politics and voting,” Hausman said. “In general, students are very excited to register to vote. Most of the students I register understand what an important right this is and are excited to exercise it.”

UT Votes is not the only organization on campus working to register voters. Both of the larger party-affiliated clubs, UDems and College Republicans, said that they are focusing on registering voters before election day.

“They are at least 60 people in this room,” said Robert Guerra, College Republicans vice president, at their first general meeting. “If every one of you registered people to vote, that’s hundreds more voters.”

Ashley Alcantara, University Democrats vice president, said she hopes the club registers as many voters as possible and helps them turn out at the polls.

“It would be really great for us to make a difference, whether that’s on the UT campus or in the Austin area,” Alcantara said.

The last day to register to vote in Texas is Oct. 11. Students on campus can register to vote in Travis County or vote in their home county by applying for an absentee ballot.