Max Patterson

This election season’s early voting turnout increased by only 39 votes on campus since the last gubernatorial and midterm election in 2010. 

This year marked the start of new changes in Austin: City elections were moved from May to November to coincide with state and federal elections, and the Austin City Council was restructured from six citywide members to 10 members, each representing geographic districts. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said she thought the new districts in Austin, as well as the county’s updated ballot, would increase voter turnout. 

“This ballot is kind of a record breaker,” DeBeauvoir said. “It’s the longest ballot we have ever had, and it is new in the sense that it’s the first time that the City of Austin has done single-member districts. It’s the first time that we’ve had all of our large local entities on the November ballot. This is all brand new for Travis County voters.”

Max Patterson, director of Hook the Vote, a Student Government agency focused on increasing student voter turnout, said he thought the publicity of this year’s race would increase the number of early voters at the University. At the Flawn Academic Center, 6,164 voters cast their ballot, compared to 6,125 in 2010. 

“You would think that they would be a little bit higher, and I think they will be on Election Day, as opposed to in 2010 just because it’s a little bit more popular race,” Patterson said. “More people know about it.”

According to DeBeauvoir, she expected voter turnout in Travis County to be higher with the new system. 

“That is a nice turnout, right in line with the usual gubernatorial turnout,” DeBeauvoir said. “We were hoping for a little better this time around.”

Compared to other Travis County poll locations, the FAC poll location ranked eighth in voter turnout. The lowest early poll numbers are at the Dell Valle Administration Building which totaled 395 voters, with the poll closed on the final voting day. The highest early turnout in the county was at Randall’s on Research Boulevard and Braker Lane with 13,706 voters. 

Despite the similar early voting rates, Patterson said he saw more participation by students in this gubernatorial race. 

“I think we saw, not necessarily in Hook the Vote but in other organizations that have gotten involved in the political process — there’s a number of political organizations on campus, but I think we’ve seen a lot more membership, a lot more action, in them,” Patterson said.

Neurobiology senior Morgan Merriman said she tries to keep her friends accountable and politically involved. Merriman said she thinks low student voter turnout is definitely a problem.

“Civic engagement in general is really important to being a citizen in America, and exercising our right to vote is the most important duty that we have,” Merriman said. “Students who don’t participate aren’t putting their say into their own future.”

Alex Keimig, human development and family sciences sophomore, said her friends all encourage each other to continue to be politically involved and vote.

“Most of my friends are civically/politically engaged, but more so my long distance friends than my local ones,” Keimig said in an email. “We’re all pretty personally motivated to stay engaged, so we support each other but don’t really need to push.”

Merriman said voting at the FAC was ideal location-wise.

“I early voted out of convenience since I am in another district and the place I would have to vote on Election Day is really far out,” Merriman said

Even with the convenience of on-campus voting, Merriman said she didn’t see many other voters at the polls.

“I don’t think the student voting turnout was high because there was literally no line at all ever,” Merriman said. “Students should start caring now about voting because it is our future, which is coming up really quickly, that we are voting for.”

DeBeauvoir said she is expecting about 150,000 people to vote in Travis County on Tuesday, consistent with Election Day turnout in previous years.

A federal district court judge struck down a state women’s reproductive rights law Friday that places restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas, calling it unconstitutional.

Judge Lee Yeakel concluded that “the act’s ambulatory-surgical-center requirements places an unconstitutional burden on women throughout Texas.”

House Bill 2 was signed into law on July 30, 2013. Yeakel blocked the requirement that raised the required standard of abortion clinics to the level of “ambulatory-surgical-center” standards, or full hospital building standards. 

The state of Texas has already announced plans to appeal his decision.

The bill also required abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of their clinics, banned abortions after 20 weeks of fertilization and added one more required doctor’s appointment when using the abortion pill. The extra doctor’s appointment totaled to four required appointments.

The latter three rules went into effect in November 2013. The higher clinic building standards would have gone into effect Sept. 1, forcing many of Texas' abortion clinics to close. 

Without Yeakel’s decision, the only abortion clinics left in Texas would be in the Houston, Austin, San Antonio and the Dallas/Fort Worth areas, making it far more difficult for women not in those areas to obtain an abortion.

Nancy Northrup, CEO and president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which challenged the law on behalf of abortion clinics in the state, said in a press release that women still have difficulty finding high-quality reproductive health care.

“The court has made clear that women’s well-being is not advanced by laws attacking access to essential health care, and that rights protected by the U.S. Constitution may not be denied through laws that make them impossible to exercise,” Northrup said.

Max Patterson, a history senior and University Democrats president, said reproductive issues are important to understand. 

“It affects all women in Texas, and it definitely affects students at UT,” Patterson said. “It just shows really how terrible governance by our state legislature is.”

Patterson said he was happy with today’s verdict.

“I’m hopeful that, when it gets appealed, it will remain struck down,” Patterson said. “It’s definitely a victory — it was an unconstitutional act, not based on medical reasons.”

Amy Nabozny, a history junior and College Republicans president, said she disapproved of the decision.

“It is a shame that a federal judge would chose to sacrifice the safety of Texas women for the sake of accessibility,” Nabozny said.

This story has been updated throughout since its original publication.