Sam Houston State University’s student political organizations are taking an active role in preparing for the upcoming midterm, gubernatorial and local elections.
With today being National Voter Registration day, both partisan and non-partisan student groups will be hosting voter registration drives beginning today and continuing through Thursday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Bearkat Plaza.
Student Government Association is partaking in the political process by assisting organizations to inform the public by handing out flyers and using social media to send people to organizations for information about their affiliation and the candidates they represent.
Student Body President Spencer Copeland said student government wants to help make each drive as successful as it can be. He said that it is important to be educated on elections, and knowing who the candidates are helps a voter make the best choice in casting their ballot.
“Even if you don’t enjoy politics, your vote has a say in how you live,” Copeland said. “Having good leadership can create a lot of change.”
The Bearkat Democrats and SHSU College Republicans are putting their boots on the ground by knocking on doors campaigning for their respective candidates. With their efforts, the students hope to reach every residence on and off campus.
“Face to face contact is the best tool for voter outreach,” Bearkat Democrats President Liz Turner said.
Focusing on citizen education, SHSU College Republicans are participating in block walks to spread the word about Texas Republican nominees and subsequent platforms.
“We do block walks because a lot of people in the community are not even aware of who is running for certain offices,” SHSU College Republican President Alycia Hester said.
For the houses that are out of their reach, both the republicans and the democrats are working with their state’s parties to call citizens for their vote.
Turner said that the focus of the Bearkat Democrats is to raise voter turnout overall from college students, faculty and staff. She said that they can play a significant role in local elections where students make up a large part of the population.
“Students make up a huge voting bloc,” Turner said. “If we can get them voting, then we can make change happen [in Huntsville] and in the gubernatorial race.”
The Bearkat Democrats registered 110 voters in the SHSU mall area last Wednesday in conjunction with the Walker County Democrats.
The SHSU College Republicans teamed up with Turning Point USA, a national conservative student organization, to incite weekly discussions in the mall area on Thursdays. Topics will include national debt, the Affordable Care Act and free speech rights.
“We as college students are the future of our country,” Hester said. “If we are not educated and involved in the decisions and voting, we will not be able to help shape the future for what we want it to become. The more involved we are, the more we can do to help our future.”
Since the 1990s, Texas government positions have mostly been held by members of the Republican Party, according to the Texas Almanac. The SHSU College Republicans said they are hoping to continue this tradition by pushing the party’s platform.
“We try still, because people move from Texas to other states all of the time,” Hester said “When you inform one, person they can inform another and another and the Republican Party spreads even more across the nation.”
Democrats in Texas are hoping to turn the state blue during this election cycle. Bearkat Democrats remain optimistic regardless of the outcome and are going to continue their fight long after Election Day.
“Voting matters,” Turner said. “Nothing will change unless we stand up now and try to make a difference. Even if we lose the election the effect of our efforts will last into the next election”.
The League of United Latin American Citizens is a non-partisan group that seeks to encourage political discussion in lieu of party affiliation. According to Sargent at Arms Luis Zarazua, this semester, LULAC is emphasizing the need to be politically active as it is an important election year.
“We have until Oct. 6 to get people registered to vote for the November election,” Zarazua said. With the midterm elections just around the corner, we have a chance to influence policy on issues important to us all.”
The urge to be a politically active citizen came to Zarazua after attending multiple national and state conventions, where he meet civic and politically active members of society.
“This election year, a huge number of statewide and national positions are up for grabs,” Zarazua said. “The fact that there isn’t a whole lot of discussion about things that are important to us such as education, immigration and various other public policy issues [made me get involved].”
Since coming to the university in 1999, political science chair Tamera Waggner said this year students seem to be more active. She says that this is odd, given that it is for a midterm election.
“I have not seen this much push for voter registration for midterms ever on campus,” Waggner said. “I am pleasantly surprised to see that more organizations are taking an interest.”
LULAC, Bearkat Democrats and SHSU College Republicans will be tabling for their organizations in the mall area weekday afternoons to inform students, answer questions and remind them to go out and vote.
Texans who are not already registered to vote must register before Oct. 6 to vote in the Nov. 4 elections.