New House Bill Complicates Voting Process for Students

Photo courtesy of: The Paris News

A record high of 16 million Texans have registered to vote. However, while the number of voters has gone up the number of locations for them to vote at has gone down.

On Sept. 1, Texas House Bill 1888 went into effect. The bill requires temporary polling branches such as those on college and university campuses to remain open the same hours as other early voting boxes. These temporary locations typically offer one or two days of early voting in places where it is not practical or cost-efficient to maintain a site open for the entire 12 days of early voting.

The bill was passed as an effort to control what some lawmakers consider “rolling polling.” Supporters of the bill say it can be used to tip the scale in favor of one side by frequently rotating early voting sites to target specific voters. Critics of HB 1888 say many counties cannot afford to make the temporary sites permanent.

In the last legislative session, Republican lawmaker Greg Bonnen pushed the law as a solution to prevent what he noticed as abuse in past school bond elections.

“Some subdivisions of the state have abused this flexibility and targeted desirable voting populations at the exclusion of others,” Bonnen said.

The Texas Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign have filed a lawsuit against the state because they believe that the law has the potential to lower voter turnout. Supporters of the lawsuit feel the law reduces access to polling places for those who live or work at a college or university.

Between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections, voter turnout among young people increased 234%, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

Tarrant County has allocated money to keep early voting sites at Texas Christian University, the University of Texas at Arlington, Texas Wesleyan, the University of North Texas Health Science Center, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Tarrant County College’s Northwest, South and Northeast campuses, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Sam Houston State University Student Body President Amanda Lee said that HB 1888 clearly affects college students today.

“As a student on a college campus I feel that mobile early voting sites are a great addition to any campus because some college students feel overwhelmed going to a polling station and this is a great way to make sure students are guaranteed their right to vote,” Lee said.

As both a student and the student body president, Lee feels strongly about young people’s voting rights.

“It would be a shame to get rid of a way for a student to exercise their 26th Amendment right to vote,” Lee said.

She said that to keep students aware of their rights, the Student Government Association and higher education administrators are planning an upcoming voter’s transparency campaign.

The last day to register to vote in the March 3 presidential primary is Feb. 3. Early voting is held from Feb. 16 – Feb. 27.

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