First-time voters may face trouble

Some first time voters can have issues with registration, and voting early can help mitigate those issues. Matt Muir | Copy Desk Chief

Sarah Pinkerton | Staff Writer

Voter registration guidelines for first time voters can be complicated. After heading to the polls last week to cast her first presidential vote, Garland freshman Andee Roby said she was met with an obstacle to her voter registration and was initially turned away from voting.

After transferring her registration from her home county in Dallas to McLennan County, she was initially told during her first trip to the polling station that because her registration came in two days late, she would be unable to vote in this election.

However, after she was turned away from voting, a man at the polling station pulled her aside and gave her the phone number of a woman at Waco NAACP, Linda Jann Lewis.

Lewis has been working at NAACP for most of her adult life and said that with millions of new first-time voters in Texas, along with people moving in from other states, voter registration trouble is not uncommon.

With the help of Lewis, along with an attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project who was able to track down her registration, Roby was able to vote with a limited ballot after 10 days.

“[The attorney] called McLennan County and explained to them, as per the election code, that she was indeed eligible to vote,” Lewis said. “She could vote a limited ballot.”

This means that while she wasn’t able to vote for local Waco elections, she was able to vote for state and national elections.

“Andee did everything that we ask young people to do in Texas,” Lewis said. “When you’re 17 years and 10 months, you can register to vote. So she registered to vote at her high school last year and she was registered in Dallas County.”

Lewis said she believes the large number of voters registering, over 4,400 in McLennan County, was the potential reason for this mix-up.

“You can imagine going to vote with your roommate and your friends on your dorm floor and they all get to vote first time for president and you don’t,” Lewis said. “We don’t know exactly what the [issue] was, probably just a clerical error.”

Lewis said she feels that without organizations such as the NAACP, Voto Latino and the Texas Civil Rights Project acting as contacts for voters when they experience voting trouble, many people’s votes may go uncounted.

“I’m hoping that this will encourage students to pay attention and don’t quit just because you get one roadblock,” Lewis said. “I think Andee is a role model for students. She persisted.”

According to Tufts University, more than seven million people aged 18 to 29 have cast their ballots during early voting for the 2020 election, higher than the numbers showed in 2016, and as of Oct. 27, Texas is in the lead for number of early votes cast by young voters at 1,002,000.

However, many preventative voter rules are in place in the state, Lewis said.

“Texas has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the nation because we have a lot of real preventative voter suppression rules, it’s almost like going through a maze,” Lewis said. “I just want to commend her on being persistent, not giving up, and I think that’s the message to most first-time voters and to students.”

Roby said that she is very grateful for Lewis and that she feels it is important to care about the people around you in your life when casting your vote.

“The rights of minority groups,” Roby said. “Also, the climate is slowly getting worse and worse and I just want someone to be able to help protect it and to think long term rather than short-term economic gain.”

Lewis said that as Generation Z and Millennials are now the largest population, over Baby Boomers, she feels it is important for them to be truly civically engaged.

“It’s one thing to read about it … even if you’re taking a government or political science course in college, that’s all good and well in theory, but until you get your hands dirty and go and attempt to vote,” Lewis said. “You learn more by doing it.”