Travis County broke its own record last week after recording the highest number of registered voters for the upcoming election cycle.
As of Oct. 2, the number of registered voters in Travis County was 800,514, or 93.5% of eligible citizens. The numbers were previously 774,302 in 2018 and 725,035 in 2016, according to the Texas secretary of state’s website.
Bruce Elfant, the Travis County voter registrar, said he is proud of what the county and its residents have accomplished over the years. He said he attributes much of the increase to the 3,000 volunteer deputy registrars who go to campuses, libraries and movie theaters to register people to vote.
Elfant said this effort has made Travis County the urban county with the highest number of registered voters in Texas. However, he said residents must not grow complacent, as Texas ranks 48 in the country in voter turnout.
“We have a long way to go,” Elfant said. “Registering to vote is not enough … if you don’t follow through and vote.”
The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 5 election is Monday at midnight, and registered Travis County voters will decide on 10 state constitutional amendments and two local ballot measures.
The city’s two propositions include votes for elections on any city lease of sports or entertainment venues and expansion of the Austin Convention Center. The constitutional amendments include a ban on the creation of a state income tax and allowing the Legislature to lower tax rates on property damaged during a disaster.
TX Votes president Anthony Zhang said the increase was largely due to the efforts of TX Votes and other student organizations under the University’s Civic Engagement Alliance, a collection of nonpartisan voter engagement organizations.
Zhang said TX Votes, a UT student organization with the goal of educating and motivating students to participate in the voting process, registered roughly 6,000 people during the 2018 election cycle. Zhang, a public health and chemistry junior, said online registration makes it much easier for students to learn how to participate, especially in a smaller election cycle.
“Voter education (is) especially important in this election cycle, because a lot of candidates are a lot more low-key,” Zhang said. “Not to say it’s not important, (the smaller election) just doesn’t have a lot of
candidates to put names to faces.”
Student Government representative Kerry Mackenzie said she drafted and filed SG legislation over the weekend which would allow students to have excused absences to vote in local, state and federal elections. Mackenzie said she drafted the legislation because students have said voting conflicts with classes, creating a barrier to voting. She said a Student Government survey found 86% of students felt this way.
“Civic engagement should be everyone’s number one prioritiy,” Plan II sophomore Mackenzie said. “If more people are missing class to vote, then they’re … having more conversations about what candidates they’d like to see and what policies they’d like to see.”
Students still looking to register in time to vote in the November elections can visit various places around town, including the Travis County Tax Office or get registered by a volunteer deputy registrar.