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Saturday, May 18, 2024 — Houston, TX

College students have responsibility to register to vote


Alex Bergin-Newman is a Wiess College junior and financial director of Rice Young Democrats, and David Cirillo is a Sid Richardson College junior and president of Rice Young Democrats

By David Cirillo and Alex Bergin-Newman     10/5/16 8:00am

This is the last week to register to vote in Texas for the upcoming election, and we implore you to do so. In the 2012 election, Texas ranked 48 out of 50 in terms of voter turnout, and its ranking didn’t improve with the 2014 midterm election. Last year, 20 percent of registered Rice students voted in the mayoral election, a significantly higher number than expected. Even so, the average age of voters in this election was 69, leading to the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and one of the closest mayoral races in decades.

As college students, we are described as the millennial vote. Why is this fabled class of citizens and voters so sought after? Voters under 30 are now the largest single voting bloc by age in America. We are important. But we are also apathetic. It’s not that we don’t view voting as important, we just often assume it doesn’t matter. But voting is your voice, and it is loud. Your opportunity to cast your voice in a larger pool in order to elect representatives determines what policies become laws. Think of the policies that influence our daily lives: taxation and energy policies, welfare policy, environmental regulations, business regulations, legal protections, etc.

As college students, we have the resources to be properly informed in this election. This is the first presidential election where many of us are eligible to vote; it is one of polar opposites, in which whoever wins will cast stark differences from the other in terms of policies, supreme court justices, diplomacy, government reach and just about every issue that affects you and everyone you know. Your vote counts to elect either one of these visions this November, here in Texas and all over the country.

Earlier this year, a federal judge issued an order that Texas allow anyone to vote so long as they sign an affidavit and submit proof of being a U.S. citizen and of their residency. The forms of acceptable identification without an affidavit include Texas driver’s licenses, Texas personal ID cars, Texas handgun licenses, a U.S. military ID card, a U.S. citizenship certificate, a U.S. passport or an Election ID Certificate. With the new federal order, you can have the following types of ID so long as you sign an affidavit stating why you cannot obtain the aforementioned forms of ID: voter registration certificate, birth certificate, current utility bill, government check, paystub or bank statement that includes your name and address, or a copy of or original government certificate with your name and address. The latter forms of ID can include your out-of-state driver’s license.

This is an important election without a clear front-runner, an election of importance that you can participate in. With a current Supreme Court vacancy and several more anticipated over the next four to eight years, our next president has the potential to significantly impact this country for decades to come. There are also 12 governors, 34 senators and all U.S. representatives up for election, positions of absolute and often neglected importance.

The election is this Nov. 8. Deadlines are quickly approaching to send in absentee applications for ballots. Moreover, this is the last week to register to vote in Texas. We implore you to utilize this opportunity, one that we have consistently here at Rice. The Rice Young Democrats have been hosting voter registration drives all month, and are going to be hosting one last drive this Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Rice Memorial Center. Come with your Texas driver’s license or your social security number. If on campus, you can register with your Rice address and vote in the RMC on Election Day. It takes five minutes to have an immeasurable impact. As Thomas Jefferson said, “We do not have a government by a majority of the people, we have a government by a majority of the people who participate.” Help be the force that makes it to actually majority participation; we can change systems and create revolutions simply through our ballots.

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