Editor’s note: Price is vice president of TX Votes, a nonpartisan voter registration and civic engagement organization.
When asking students if they plan to vote this November, I most often get the response, “There’s an election this November?” The sad reality is that many students don’t have time to pay attention to local politics and see voting as a once-every-four-years deal. This is incredibly dangerous and unproductive. When students don’t show up to vote, it’s easy for institutions such as the City of Austin and Travis County to ignore our needs. That’s why it’s so important for every eligible student to vote in this November’s election (and don’t forget to bring your ID).
The biggest proposal on the ballot Nov. 7 is a more than $1 billion bond package from Austin Independent School District. Some parts of the package, such as the potential sale of under-enrolled campuses and the relocation of the award-winning Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy away from northeast Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson High, have rightly drawn criticism that they continue historic mistreatment of East Austin’s schools. However, the money from this bond is urgently needed to renovate buildings in desperate need of repair, improve the quality of college and career prep resources for high school students and address massive overcrowding at some AISD campuses.
In the wake of Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as secretary of education, many students and educators used the #publicschoolproud hashtag to convey their support for public education on social media. It’s time to make that support concrete and show we care about our public schools by giving them the money they need to educate America’s next generation of young leaders.
Also on the ballot is a nearly $185 million Travis County bond. The money from it would be used to expand roadways, construct sidewalks and fix Americans with Disabilities Act non-compliant sidewalks. The bond will also add bike lanes, improve drainage crossings and increase the number of parks in Travis County. While most of the improvements aren’t downtown — the county often defers to the city of Austin on infrastructure improvements in this area — students would benefit from park construction in Onion Creek and Bee Creek, both of which are a reasonable drive from campus.
According to Travis County commissioner Jeff Travillion, the improved drainage crossings on the ballot address places where people have been killed by low-water crossings. “This bond election is about the safety, mobility and quality of life of Travis County residents,” Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said in a press release.
The other item on the ballot is a series of proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution. These are mostly harmless measures creating property tax exemptions for partially disabled veterans and the spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty, easing restrictions on the amount Texans can borrow against home equity, changing the term limits for gubernatorial appointees and expanding the number of businesses that can hold raffles.
The county couldn’t be making voting any easier for students. The Flawn Academic Center will serve as a polling location for early voting from Oct. 23–Nov. 3 and again for election day. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a country where we get a say in what our government does. This means we have an obligation to exercise our constitutional right to vote at every opportunity. Choosing not to vote is a direct insult to the people who fought to give us this right.
Price is a government sophomore from Austin. Follow him on Twitter @price_zach.