By Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor
This year, the chant for “get out and vote” seems to have grown to a roar, and voter registration in McLennan County has reached an all-time high in the past decade. Sadly, that all-time high is still only 55 percent of the population, in comparison to Travis County, which has a record 93 percent of eligible voters registered for the mid-term elections, according to the Daily Texan. One way we might be able to raise the number of voters in our county is if young voters knew they would have a place to vote on campus.
According to the Campus Voter Project, “one of the biggest barriers for students to register and vote is the lack understanding of registration deadlines, where to register (their home or school address), ID requirements, and other information on voting.” Having a voting site on campus, with clear advertisement of when it is open, where it is located and what information is needed would help erase some of these barriers. College campuses have a large portion of first-time voters, and it is important to encourage those as well as repeat voters to continue acting on their civic duty.
With on-campus voting, more people would be able to reach the polls without driving a car or braving the overlap between the Baylor and Waco Transit system. Waco Transit is offering free rides on Election Day with the presentation of an “I voted” sticker or registration card, but students are less likely to use the off-campus buses since on-campus buses are already free to students. Although the Baylor Bus system uses Waco Transit buses and drivers, the actual routes do not fully overlap, making transitioning from one to the other difficult. This can require walking to stops off campus, which can be dangerous for students who cross under one of the two highway bridges. Without a car, getting to a voting location could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, even though the nearest polling location is only about an eight-minute drive away from campus.
Also, the free rides are only available for actual Election Day. If a polling location was opened on campus, it would ideally be open for early voting as well as Election Day. This is already the case at schools like the University of Texas, Florida Atlantic University and others. The polling location at UT was so popular among students, there was a need to open another on-campus location, according to the Daily Texan.
Students will wait in sprawling Starbucks lines in the BSB or Moody Library for entire class breaks if necessary, and many are late to class just so that they can bring a caffeinated beverage with them. If students have a relative interest in voting, they would hopefully be willing to use their class break to stop by a polling place instead. If early voting polling was located in a central and open building like Moody Memorial Library or the Bill Daniel Student Center, students from all across campus would be able to walk to the polling place within minutes and vote in the amount of time it takes to get a chai tea latte. On Election Day, there might be more of a wait, but the advantages of voting on campus are still viable.
For next voting season, I encourage the university to bring polling to campus. Organizations like the Campus Voter Project offer resources and information on how to begin polling on campus, and campuses like UT that have already gone through the process are only a call or short drive away.
As early voting comes to a close, it is important to keep encouragement for voting high. If you haven’t had the chance to vote yet, take advantage of the free bus rides on Election Day or start a carpool with some friends. It’s time to start using your vote.
Liesje is a senior journalism major from Waco.