Student organizations celebrate National Voter Registration Day

There was a voter registration drive at Fountain Mall from 9am to 5pm on Tuesday to get more students registered to vote. Audrey La | Photographer

By Mariah Bennett | Staff Writer

On Tuesday, multiple student organizations celebrated National Voter Registration Day with a voter registration drive from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fountain Mall. At the drive, participants were able to register to vote, pledge to vote and change their voting address in order to participate in upcoming local elections.

With a quickly approaching registration deadline of Oct. 4 for Texas elections, the organizations made large efforts to encourage students to vote, providing flyers and asking passing students if they were registered yet.

National Voter Registration Day is a nonpartisan civic holiday meant to celebrate democracy, and it is celebrated every year on the fourth Tuesday of September. The holiday has the goal of giving every eligible person an opportunity to vote. It was first recognized in 2012; this year is the 10th celebration of the holiday, and numerous service, political, cultural and nonpartisan groups helped run the voting registration drive.

These organizations included Baylor Ambassadors, Texas Rising at Baylor, Baylor National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Ignite at Baylor, African Student Association, Black Student Union, College Democrats of Baylor and College Republicans at Baylor.

Brandon Dillon — LaPlace, La., senior and Baylor NAACP president — said the holiday is a push to let today’s youth know the immense power of their voice in government.

“Even if your vote didn’t go the way you thought, it always matters,” Dillon said. “We hold political activists and organizations accountable.”

Waco junior Veronica Penales was involved in multiple organizations at the event, including Ignite and Texas Rising. Penales said that even out-of-state students affect local issues.

“The Baylor community influences and affects the greater Waco community more than people think,” Penales said.

Reagan Dupler — Chantilly, Va., junior and Baylor Ambassador president — agreed that students should invest and vote locally, as they’re living here during their time in college. Dupler said it is also important just to vote in general, wherever a voter is more invested, whether in the Baylor area or at home.

“This year is unique, as we’re able to have election officials here to talk to students directly,” Dupler said.

These invited election officials included Jared Goldsmith, the elections administrator from McLennan County. The officials brought a voting machine in order to educate students further.

“We want to make sure Baylor students have an opportunity to get involved and understand how the election process works, specifically here in McLennan County,” Goldsmith said.

Current local issues include climate change and local flood planning, specifically future flood impact in lower income communities, Ayla Dodson-Hestand — Pasadena senior and Texas Rising co-president — said.

Dodson-Hestand said there is an opportunity for students to make a positive change to Waco’s political landscape through voting and address changes because of the large number of younger people who are eligible to vote within the city if registered. In McLennan County, 17% of the population is 20 to 29 years old.

“Baylor students actually have a pretty big say in Waco,” Dodson-Hestand said. “We’re here for a minimum of four years, and some people stay longer, so we should try to make a positive impact.”

Upcoming local elections are on Nov. 2; early voting is available from Oct. 18 to Oct. 22, Oct. 23 to Oct. 27 and Oct. 28 to Oct. 29. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. According to Goldsmith, election issues include constitutional amendments in Texas and elections within cities and schools. For more information on local elections, go to the McLennan County Election Office’s website.