Voter registration spikes in McLennan county, Texas

READY AND REGISTERED | The record books have been broken with a whopping 138,509 registered voters in McLennan County and over 15 million registered voters in Texas for the midterm elections in November. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Lizzie Thomas | Staff Writer

McLennan County has more registered voters this year than it has in a decade, with 138,509 residents ready to vote.

In the 2014 joint general election, 44,998 residents voted — less than 19 percent of the estimated population that year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, McLennan County had 234,901 residents in 2010 and estimates a seven percent increase since then.

However, Texas has more registered voters than it ever has, as of National Voter Registration Day, Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos announced in a press release. There is a whopping 15,624,871 registered voters.

Allison Heefner is a Baylor alumna, a Waco resident and one of the voters who increased the count this year in McLennan County. She said finally registering to vote by mail in time – Texas does not allow online voting – was a miracle because several logistical problems got in her way.

“I have to give props to all the online campaigns — I would have forgotten had it not been for all the online campaigns to remind me to register,” Heefner said. “I’m very excited to have my own say. I don’t know how educated I am as far as who I should vote for, but I am excited to not feel pressured by anybody. I’m really excited to let my opinion be considered.”

Heefner said she thinks everyone should believe their vote matters — especially this time around.

“I think everybody should be able to feel empowered to vote in this election,” Heefner said. “If you’re Republican, you feel empowered because whether you agree or disagree with what Congress is doing, you’re the majority. If you’re a Democrat this is an empowering time — with some less than fortunate events, I think that will really rally them to get their people into office. I’m doing my best to not say where I am — partly because I don’t know, myself!”

Kathy Van Wolfe, elections administrator for McLennan County, said there are many candidates on the ballot this year who worked hard to get people to register. She said they never have 100 percent voter turnout. In perspective, one of the biggest presidential elections of President Obama in 2008 had only a 50 percent turnout, and presidential elections tend to have the highest turnout.

“I think in this county people are constantly moving in and out, especially with colleges like Baylor. Many students will register here and change from wherever they’re from,” Van Wolfe said.

Van Wolfe said students should remember they can vote by ballot if they are registered to vote in another county or state. The deadline for requesting a ballot for Texas counties is Oct. 26. Once students receive the ballot, they can fill it out and send it back to be received by Election Day. There are two weeks of early voting before Nov. 16, and the dates, times and the 33 locations are on the website. Van Wolfe said to remember to bring photo ID.