University Democrats camped out on the West Mall on Sunday night to be among the first in Travis County to vote in the presidential election.
UDems hosted Voterama, an all-night event meant to increase awareness of early voting and encourage students to get out and vote. The event started at 10 p.m. Sunday and lasted until 7 a.m. Monday, when early voting opened in Texas.
Ashley Alcantara, government and Plan II senior and president of UDems, said Voterama is a long-standing tradition. The organization has held the event for different elections in the last few years, including for the primaries in the spring.
Alcantara said she’s seen more interest in this event than she has in previous Voteramas.
“I think that what makes this one unique is that students are more excited about the presidential election,” Alcantara said. “People who aren’t necessarily always in tune with politics are paying attention to this election because of its importance.”
Alcantara said early voting is important because students can be discouraged by long lines on Election Day.
“The line is going to be extraordinarily long on Election Day,” Alcantara said. “A lot of times students don’t realize that there’s two weeks of early voting … which makes voting more accessible. We don’t want students waiting until Election Day and seeing the line and deciding not to vote.”
In previous years, students have waited in line as long as three to four hours to vote on Election Day.
Alcantara said UDems wants voting to be associated with fun and is hosting another event on Halloween called Trick or Vote to encourage early voting. The group also plans to pass out food and water to people in line on Election Day to make the experience more positive, Alcantara said.
Mayor Steve Adler attended the event earlier in the night bearing donuts for the students.
Adler said it’s exciting seeing students coming out to vote and talked about the power students have in elections.
“In the early '70s, the UT students decided the election in the city,” Adler said. “The student body voted in unprecedented numbers and really caught the city by surprise, and it was a great thing. That’s what I think of when I come out here and see the students coming out the night before early voting starts … I romanticize that point in time.”
The event had an American theme, as students played football, ate pizza and watched “My Date with the President’s Daughter.”
“It’s a really nice way to get together with your friends and develop a sense of camaraderie,” said Brigit Benestante, journalism and government senior and member of UDems. “It might be silly saying that we’re the first people to vote in Travis County, but at the same time, we do that because we want to show other people how enthusiastic we are about voting for the candidate we believe in.”