“We thought this would be a great opportunity to have students to come out and vote, as well as, have some entertainment,” said Mark Solano, director of External Affairs for SGA.
TexPIRG New Voter’s Project staff attended the campus event encouraging students to vote early, letting them know about shuttles and putting on gimmicks — taking pictures with “hipster” mustaches and a sign that read, “I voted before it was cool.”
The SGA fought to have an early voting location on campus, Solano said, but the process took more time and energy than expected.
“The process is long and requires a hefty amount of paperwork,” said Solano. “This seemed to be the best way to accommodate students and get them involved.”
One of the main obstacles was parking, said Hector de Leon, director of Communications and Voter Outreach.
“UH theoretically may be a good location, but parking issues do not make it easily accessible to the community surrounding the University,” De Leon said. “I remember driving to campus for school and it was very difficult to find parking to attend class.”
UH is in State Representative District 147, De Leon said. There are more than 90,000 registered voters within District 147, making it difficult for voters to find appropriate parking to the proposed voting location — especially during school hours.
Additionally, according to the Harris County Clerk’s office, there is a maximum of two voting locations per State Representative. The voting location for UH’s district is Palm Center.
“Although I feel more students would be prone to vote, especially entering freshman, if the early voting was on campus,” said kinesiology freshman Adrienne Avillinoza.
“I think the shuttle was a great idea to encourage students to vote. I enjoyed the event, but having a location on campus would just make it easier for students and our busy lives.”
UH is well-known as a commuter school, with students traveling from several different counties in the surrounding Houston area, De Leon said. These students have a variety of options and access to voting besides campus.
“The 90,000-plus citizens who are registered to vote within District 147 have lives also, including- work, raising children and contributing to society,” De Leon said. “In choosing an early voting site, providing voter access to these voters is paramount.”
Early Voting is approved by the Harris County Commissioners Court, De Leon said.
“The County Commissioner who represents the area has a large say on where early voting locations are situated,” De Leon said. “EL Franko Lee, County Commissioner Precinct 1, is a democratic and the early voting location has been chosen based on his response from the stakeholder’s that the Palm Center location is convenient.”
“I thought the idea of the organization’s sponsoring a shuttle was a great turnout,” said health promotions senior Glen Miles. “It shows that the University still cares to encourage students to get involved, despite the issues of having a location on-site.”
SGA will proceed with getting approval of an Early Voting location on campus in the future, Solano said.
“The shuttle has been the best way to make voting convenient to our students and faculty so far,” Solana said. “I encourage students who didn’t get a chance to attend to still vote.”