By Lauren Jurgemeyer
SAN MARCOS, Texas—The 2018 midterm elections saw an increase of voting among college students as universities, like Texas State, offered on-campus resources promoting political activism.
Nationally, the 2018 midterm elections welcomed a surge of 18- to 29-year-old voters, which broke record turnout rates. According to a poll performed by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), nearly 31% of youth voted in this past election, which was a 10% increase since 2014.
Caden Ziegler, a freshman at Texas State University, said he has always been politically aware. Ziegler was quick to vote in his first election this past November and was pleased with the visible increase in youth voting ranks.
“A lot of political scientists, or really anyone in any field, calls this period Trumpism or the Trump-era, and whether you like him or not, he incites very strong feelings in anyone,” Ziegler said. “The one good thing to come out of Trump being elected is that people are becoming more politically aware and active.”
Texas State students were given the opportunity to register to vote through classes, dorms and the library. The Quad was open to political groups to present students with different candidates’ policies to ensure that the students of Texas State made an informed vote. The LBJ Student Center also offered early voting to students.
Sophomore Kathryn Harris said that she did not feel ready to vote in this past election. She felt as though she had not done enough research on the candidates to cast an educated vote. Still, she believes that voting is important and has plans to vote in the upcoming 2020 election.
“I think it’s important for us to vote, but I think it’s important to be educated on it,” Harris said.
First-time voter Malorie McGruder said she was excited to exercise a human right. She was able to visit the student center to cast her vote despite lines that on one day stretched all the way to Chick-fil-A.
“I think [the construction on the LBJ Student Center] deterred a lot of people,” McGruder said. “I think that if [Texas State] were to add more places it would give more opportunities and be more accessible.”
During three days that early voting was first offered, students, faculty and staff waited nearly two hours in line to cast their vote. According to the Texas State newspaper, the University Star, the Hays County Commissioners’ Court voted to extend early voting on campus after receiving a demand letter from the Texas Civil Rights Project.
Students like Michael Howell, a health and business major, and Ben Foster, a senior sound engineering technology major, agreed that Texas State should allow for and continue to make voting more accessible for students.
Howell, a transfer from Guadalupe University, said he was unable to vote in the last presidential election since he was not registered in the correct county. He struggled to find time to drive to his registered county and vote.
“I’m close to home now, so I can drive home and do that, but for some kids, they can’t do that,” Howell said. “Like at my other school, I didn’t have that option.”
Foster said he believes that voting is a process that requires extra effort that most millennials do not wish to take.
“I personally voted in the 2016 presidential election solely because voting was available in LBJ student center, and I had a class there already,” Foster said. “I believe we have to continue giving millennials convenient ways to exercise their voting rights if we want them to take time out to do so.”
Students like junior Frank Villela are looking toward the future when it comes to the topic of youth voting. He said that social media has made a difference in the way that candidates can reach the youth population.
“I believe the 2020 presidential election will break records with voters under 30 because after the past four years we are ready for our voices to be heard in every aspect, but especially in our government,” Villela said.
While the 2020 presidential election seems far off, potential candidates are already beginning to line up. Voter registration applications can be found at the Voter Registrar’s office or online. The general election deadline to register in Texas is Oct. 4, 2020.
Illustration by Lauren Jurgemeyer.