By Jon Platt
With election season drawing near, it’s time for voters to make sure they can legally vote and Baylor professors are reminding students there is more to the process then one might think.
“You can’t just show up on the day of,” Dr. Pat Flavin, assistant professor of political science, said. “You’ve got to know what you’re doing.”
In Texas, the law requires voters be registered with the state 30 days prior to the election, according to VoteTexas.gov. For this year’s elections, the last date to mail in the voter registration application is Oct. 6. It is available both at VoteTexas.gov and in Pat Neff Hall suite 306.
“If you attend Baylor away from home and are registered to vote at your parents’ address, you have several voting options,” according to Baylor’s Office of Governmental Relations website. “You may register to vote at your Baylor residence or keep your voter registration current at your parents’ address.”
Students who do not know where or whether they are registered can run a search at VoteTexas.gov with their Texas driver’s license number or their first and last name.
For students from a county other than McLennan County who plan to vote in Waco, re-registration at the new local address by Oct. 6 is required. Students who will vote via an absentee ballot must request an Application for Ballot by Mail by Oct. 24. Early voting dates are also available from Oct. 29 to 31 for those who need to make accommodations to vote in their home precinct.
Flavin said because of present political tension between access to voting and eliminating voter fraud, the process is harder than in past elections.
“Texas makes it as hard to vote as possible,” Flavin said.
Texas has some of the toughest voting laws for people who wish to vote, especially students who do not live in areas where they are registered, Flavin said. One must know what’s required ahead of time in order to cast a vote.
Flavin said he would like to see shuttle buses to polling stations offered at Baylor to encourage student turnout.
Dr. David Clinton, chair of the political science department, said despite the current tension surrounding voting policies, registration is a necessary evil because it assures legitimacy.
“It is intended to assure that everyone who votes is legally qualified to vote,” Clinton said.
It is not legal to vote in two towns or different states, he said. Voter registration was put in place so states could cross-check with other states for accuracy.
While states weigh concerns differently, what registration seeks to balance is ensuring the maximum number of voters are registered and that the necessary precautions are in place for voter legality, he said.
While statistics on voter fraud vary at different jurisdictions, Flavin said studies show fraudulent voting cases are low.
“We can’t get people to vote once, much less two or three times,” Flavin said.
Dr. David Bridge, assistant professor of political science, said beyond all the controversy of voting registration, students should keep in mind the purpose of voting.
“Elections are the main springs of American democracy,” he said. “At some point, every legislator is held responsible on Election Day. It’s our duty to hold them responsible by voting and either re-electing them or by not re-electing them.”