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Thursday, September 20, 2018

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Polling spots on campus will give students their voice


Students are less likely to vote without a polling location on campus.|Leah Nash/The Cougar

Students are less likely to vote without a polling location on campus. | Leah Nash/The Cougar

Another important election year is underway, and yet the University of Houston has decided to sit this election cycle out — so far — by not having any early or regular voting station on campus.

Although the presidential election is important, the responsibility to vote doesn’t just come one day in November.

Countless positions within local, state and national government are going to be voted on in the upcoming year. By not providing students with polling locations, UH is sending a message about how important they think elections are to students.

The Harris County Primary runoff election had its early voting last week and regular voting Tuesday. Precinct 7, which is home to UH and the surrounding area, voted on the candidates who will be running for justice of the peace and sheriff positions.

When students, faculty and people start thinking it is out of the school’s control to act, it reminds me when people say they don’t vote because it doesn’t count or they don’t like either candidate. Prairie View A&M University-Northwest fought for early and election day voting, and it has had a polling location for students since 2013.

These elected officials can have a major impact on students residing in the UH area for up to four years, depending on how dependent they are to their parents and closeness to their childhood home.

As young voters living in the heart of the city, UH students could have had a say in who will be the next justice of the peace, a role that now replaces a small claims court.

Hillary Green, the current justice of the peace and winner of yesterday’s Democratic primary runoff, presides over thousands of cases every year from parking tickets to civil suits.

If someone lives anywhere near UH and gets a speeding ticket, or is sued by someone for running your bicycle or longboard into their car, they will probably wind up in front of Judge Green.

This election cycle has been so polarizing it feels like everyone has an opinion about our current political landscape. Yet, Harris County had an abysmal turnout for early and mail-in ballots for this week’s runoff, totaling just 49,300 votes compared to Super Tuesday’s 217,000.

Schools like Prairie View A&M University-Northwest, Lone Star College and Houston Community College all held polling locations for the primary runoff. They will likely offer polling locations in November.

College is more than a place to learn and experience new, exciting things. It’s a place where young adults begin to dabble in politics, whether in class or among friends.

The importance of having a polling location on campus is paramount in getting young adults to learn that politics are about more than talking. It’s about participating, volunteering and voting.

Although there was a polling location less than 3 miles away from UH, the argument that students can just travel to vote or vote by mail is laughable. I have seen, and experienced, the struggle for transportation among young adults who can barely afford more than what’s given to them on their meal card. Polling stations on campus will help students be actively engaged in politics and have an incentive to vote because of proximity.

The truth is that a lot of millennials are just not voting. Campaigns across the country like Rock the Vote have tried to appeal to young voters with little to no dent made when it comes to numbers at the polls.

Although on-campus polling locations may not get people to instantly march to the voting booth, it it would prove to UH students that their voice is as important as any citizen in this country.

Opinion editor Frank Campos is a media production senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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