By Rebecca Fiedler
At the state level, Baylor students still have a number of positions in which to choose who will run in November’s state elections, though voter turnout among students is expected to be small.
Runoff elections for Texas state primaries will be on May 27, though there are only five days left to register to vote. Early voting begins on May 19 and ends May 23.
Kathy Van Wolfe, elections administrator at the McLennan County elections office, said she expects the total voter turnout to be about 5 to 10 percent. In March’s initial primary elections, Precinct 3 of McLennan County, which includes most Baylor students, had a voter turnout of 29 people.
“I think our generation is stereotyped, and justly, I’d say, for not turning up to vote in the general election, let alone the primaries or run-offs of the primaries,” said Carlos Martinez, president of Texas College Democrats. “I think that any moment where elections are being held, college students need to voice their opinions.”
Schertz senior Kimani Mitchell, president of Baylor College Democrats, said she doesn’t think many Baylor students will vote in the runoffs.
“Probably myself and a few other select individuals who are pretty civically engaged might exercise their right to vote, but I think as we saw in the general primary, the Baylor student turnout was incredibly low,” she said.
Part of why there is such a low voter turnout among Baylor students is because many Baylor students don’t transfer residency to McLennan County, said Ralph Patterson, McLennan County Republican Party chairman.
Voters as individuals in this election will have more influence than they would in other elections, Patterson said.
“Anybody who goes out now, their vote is magnified,” he said. “When you’re voting and you’re only one of a million people voting, you represent a million people with your vote.”
To register to vote, a person doesn’t have to have identification with them, though when voting they will need photo identification. Those interested in voting can come to the local elections office or pick up an application at city hall, any post office, library, or when updating their driver’s license at Department of Motor Vehicles.
“If Baylor students are registered back home and want to vote there, the deadline is May 16,” Van Wolfe said. “They will need to contact the county wherever they are registered and get an application for a ballot by mail.”
There are four races on the ballot for the Republican Party and two races for the Democratic Party people can vote on in McLennan County Precinct 3.
The major Democratic runoffs are for U.S. senator and state agricultural commissioner. Democratic candidates for U.S. senator are David Alameel and Kesha Rogers, though Rogers has been denied an endorsement by the Texas Democratic party.
“Kesha Rogers is an extremist, and she’s not a Democrat,” Martinez said. “We passed a resolution this past December making sure people know she is not affiliated with the state party. The movement that supports her is an extremist movement.”
Mitchell said she thinks Alameel will win, based on the education to the public on Rogers’ platform.
“People who vote in runoff elections tend to be more civically engaged and informed, and I think they will vote for Alameel,” she said.
The major Republican runoffs are for lieutenant governor, attorney general, agricultural commissioner and railroad commissioner.
“On the Republican ticket we’ve got an abundance of good candidates in almost all these races,” Patterson said. “Any one of these guys would make a great elected official.”
The Republican race for lieutenant governor will be between Dan Patrick and incumbent David Dewhurst. Patterson said he doesn’t feel there is a clear winner in the race.
“That race has kind of come down to an established Republican, Dewhurst, running against the arguably tea party-esque Dan Patrick, where he is considered a little more on the conservative side on a lot of issues,” Patterson said. “Dewhurst of course has been the lieutenant governor for 11 years. You would kind of think you can tell what he’s going to do because there have been 11 years to see what he’s done.”
Martinez said he views the situation differently.
“For the Republicans it’s going to be a choice between the inefficiency of Dewhurst and the extreme radicalism of Dan Patrick, so good luck to the Republican voter base,” he said.
Ken Paxton and Dan Branch are running in the Republican race for attorney general.
“Paxton has been called, arguably, the most conservative elective official in the state,” Patterson said. “Branch has been characterized as being kind of more moderate and liberal than Paxton. I think it will come down to whether we want a more conservative or liberal attorney general.”
Mitchell said she thinks the Democratic races are less controversial.
“There’s more of a general split than a whole-hearted ideological split like in the Republican party,” she said.
Michael Blair, president of the Baylor College Republicans, refused to comment on the elections, saying he and the other Baylor College Republicans leaders are not in a position to speculate.