Article Originally Published 2/19/20 at The Daily Texan
Voter registration in Travis County hit an all-time high with 95% of eligible voters being registered, said Bruce Elfant, Travis County tax assessor-collector and voter registrar.
Travis County has over 822,000 registered voters, about 50,000 more since the last election, Elfant said.
“We’ve never had this many people registered before,” Elfant said. “It’s the highest registration rate of any urban county in Texas.”
Elfant said he hopes Travis County will also have the highest voter turnout in Texas.
“This is our democracy, and that’s why we’re so aggressive in registering voters,” Elfant said. “There’s not another county that has 4,000 volunteer deputy registrars like we do.”
As a volunteer deputy registrar, government sophomore Hector Mendez helps eligible Travis County residents become registered voters.
“It’s absolutely fantastic that there are so many eligible voters now registered to vote,” Mendez said. “It shows people are paying attention now. They’re waking up and realizing voting is important.”
Mendez, who is also a member of University Democrats, recommended residents become trained VDRs to get involved in the voting process.
“I was registered for the first time by (University Democrats) when I was a freshman,” Mendez said. “I became a VDR so I could give that same opportunity to students who want to participate in electoral politics.”
Mendez said students should vote regularly to select candidates who represent their interests because elected officials make decisions that directly affect them.
The county’s registration rate could rise to 96% with an additional 30,000-40,000 registered voters for the general election, Elfant said.
Mendez said he will continue helping with voter registration to increase the county’s rate.
“I wish registering people to vote would be easier,” Mendez said. “In an ideal world, we’d have online voter registration, and we’d be able to register so many more people.”
Ric Galvan is a VDR and campus organizer for Texas Rising at UT, a nonpartisan organization at college campuses across Texas that encourages young Texans to be politically active.
“We want to ensure people are registered to vote because it’s kind of a burden to do in Texas by yourself,” history sophomore Galvan said.
He said Texas Rising registered over 1,700 voters on Feb. 3 while working with the Civic Engagement Alliance.
Galvan said the next step for registered voters is to make time to vote. Early voting started Feb. 18 and ends Feb. 28. Students can vote on campus 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at the Perry-Castañeda Library and the Flawn Academic Center.
“It’s one thing to be registered, and it’s another thing to actually get out to the polling location,” Galvan said. “I suggest going to vote early. Don’t wait until election day when there will be long lines.”
Public health sophomore Gabi Antuna said her first voting experience in 2018 encouraged her to become a VDR. She said UT makes the voting process accessible with resources such as VDR training, on-campus polling locations and various nonpartisan and partisan organizations.
“I felt like the person I was voting for made an effort to represent me and my community,” Antuna said. “This is something many people should be a part of and experience.”
Photo Credit: Renee Koite, Daily Texan Staff