Nonprofit organizations host Presidential Debate watch party for UT students

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Jolt Texas member Stephan Villanueva, right, celebrates the end of her organization’s Presidential Debate watch party with psychology senior Tayla Nelson, left, and public health senior Pili Gyasi, center.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

Around 50 UT students gathered Wednesday night at Space 24 Twenty for a viewing of the first Democratic Presidential primary debate ahead of the 2020 election.

The viewing was hosted by nonprofit organizations Jolt Texas, the state’s largest Latino progressive organization, and Indivisible Austin, a chapter of a political grassroots movement based in Central Texas.

Daniela Rojas, a community organizer with Jolt, said she hoped the viewing would engage young people in the Austin area. 

“(Jolt) wanted to make this event accessible for young people to learn about the candidates for 2020,” Rojas said. “Specifically, we’re seeking to engage and empower the Latino community in Texas.”

Volunteer deputy registrars registered attendees to vote at the event. Rojas said Jolt has future plans for college students, including those at UT, as the election nears. The organization has chapters at several universities, and they plan on continuing to register students to vote, she said.

“We’re eager to fight for our community's quality and respect,” Rojas said. “We want our community voting and civically engaged.”

Shane Johnson, a board member with Indivisible Austin, said the organization’s goal is to increase young voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election. 

Young Texans turned out in record numbers in the 2018 midterm elections. In November, Texans under 30 accounted for 8.1% of total turnout, up from 2.5% in 2014, according to state elections records and TargetSmart, a Democratic data firm.

“(Indivisible Austin) wants to engage people who have been marginalized by society ⁠— people who wouldn’t typically be engaged, including younger people,” Johnson said.

Johnson said Indivisible Austin also hopes people will align themselves with candidates who represent their personal values. 

“We want people to support candidates that they believe in,” Johnson said. “Not just the ones who have the most money and such.”

Bryan Moreno, a sophomore double majoring in management information systems and Mexican-American and Latina/o studies, attended the viewing. He said it was helpful for finding ways to stay engaged with his community.

“Through these events, I can connect with people who have the same goals as me,” Moreno said. “It makes it easy for me to find ways to stay involved.”

Moreno said watching the debates is important to stay educated during the election cycle.

“I want to be informed on all of the Democratic candidates during the election,” Moreno said. “They are a large group, and it is important to see how they distinguish themselves through their ideas and policies to see where my ideology most closely aligns.”