University Democrats rallied at the West Mall beginning at 9 p.m. Monday to encourage students to vote early for the Travis County elections on March 4. Early voting opens Tuesday at 7 a.m.
The organization has been holding the event, which is called Voterama, for several years to increase student awareness of the opportunity to vote early, according to Michelle Willoughby, government junior and communications director for University Democrats.
“We are very lucky to have a polling place on campus, and we want to make sure students take advantage of it,” Willoughby said. “We also work very hard to increase young people’s voting in general.”
Willoughby also said the organization holds other events throughout the year to encourage students to vote.
“Another thing we do is Democracy Dogs, where we bring dogs to campus on Election Day,” Willoughby said. “People stop to pet the dogs, and that gives a chance to talk to them about voting.”
Candidates running in the Travis County elections that are endorsed by University Democrats also spoke at Voterama, both to defend their platforms and to offer additional promotion of early voting. Endorsed candidates included Richard Jung, who is running for Travis County commissioner for Precinct 2, Andy Brown, who is running for county judge, and Ramey Ko, who is running for county treasurer.
Ko, who is a UT law lecturer and a member of University Democrats, said he comes to the Voterama event for every election cycle and has probably attended a dozen by now.
“I have a feeling that, if it wasn’t for [University Democrats] doing this event, students would not have as much a sense of what’s happening on a county, city and state level,” Ko said. “It can be difficult, particularly as a college student, to pay attention to what’s happening at city hall … even though our lives are affected much more directly by [those elections].”
David Feigen, government and communications studies senior and president of University Democrats, said the organization took care when deciding which candidates to endorse for the March primaries.
“From our standpoint, it is important not just to elect the Democrats on the ballot but elect the best Democrats who we think are the most progressive and the most qualified for leadership,” Feigen said. “It’s [also] important that people know that the March primaries mean just as much as any other election.”