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Friday, August 23, 2019

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On-campus voting to be available for students


Students will have a much easier time this year voting in November's local election with Harris County allowing people to vote at polling locations on campus.

Jiselle Santos/The Cougar

Students will have a much easier time this year voting in November’s local election with Harris County allowing people to vote at polling locations on campus.

Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman recently announced that voters no longer need to report back to their precinct for election day voting, which means students will be able to vote at an on-campus polling location.

Like early voting, registered voters in Harris County can vote at any election day polling location, according to the County Clerk’s website.

In the 2016 elections, the Student Center North was Precinct 389’s polling location.

Kate Dentler, Harris County Democratic Party’s precinct 389 chair and political science junior, said Trautman also requested UH to be an early polling location.

“Before County Clerk Diane Trautman took office, the county had not instituted county-wide voting programs,” Dentler said. “Therefore, only voters registered in precinct 389 were able to vote in their precinct’s polling location on election day. Precinct 389 includes on-campus housing.”

The distinction being many students aren’t registered to vote using their on-campus address.

Jessica Hulett, Student Government Association’s director of external affairs, said the UH Recreation & Wellness Center will be the likely spot for on-campus polling, and SGA has plans to increase student voting this year, including busing students out to early polling locations.

However, with Trautman’s announcement that any voter in Harris County can vote at any polling location, students may not need to bus out through SGA if they don’t want to on election day.

Even if students can’t vote, Hulett hopes to increase their involvement with elections and educate them on ways to be engaged in the process.

“Civic engagement can be participating in activism, and canvassing for candidates, or helping with phone banks,” Hulett said. “It can even be as simple as going with your friends to vote.”

Our next mayor will be decided on Nov. 5, as well as several seats on city council.

“We’re trying to put an emphasis on the importance of voting in local elections,” Hulett said. “Local elections can have even more of an impact on their lives than presidential elections can in some ways.”

Hulett said SGA is planning a three stage approach to getting students involved in voting.

SGA is currently registering people to vote. Once the voter registration deadlines arrives 30 days before the election, they will then distribute nonpartisan information about the candidates, Hulett said.

The registration phase will go up to thirty days before the election, the deadline for signing up to vote, but SGA has already made efforts over the summer.

“So far, we’ve registered about 250 people, and they’re all incoming UH students,” Hulett said.

SGA is also planning an event for National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 24th, and they hope to have free food and live music, Hullett said. Last year 500 people showed up.

For the second step, Hullet said they usually have representatives from the League of Women Voters on campus distributing information, and someone from the County Clerk’s office that brings a simulated polling booth so people can practice ahead of time.

Thirty days before the election, SGA will begin doing tablings to distribute information about candidates and how to vote, Hulett said.

SGA also plans to bus people out to polling locations if they need it.

“Last year we had over 600 people go vote, which is insane for young people,” Hulett said.

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