What is TX Votes, and how long has it been around?
TX Votes, formerly known as UT Votes, has been a part of the programming side of the Annette Strauss Institute as a sponsored student organization since 2005. Our goals are to register UT students to vote or update their address, as well as educate the UT student community on ballot issues and candidates. We are strictly nonpartisan – we do not take issue positions or endorse candidates. Instead, we work to create an open space for students to come and share their opinions without fear of judgment. We promote civil discussion and work hard to represent all viewpoints at our events.
Why be nonpartisan?
Sometimes in today’s world, it can feel like it’s “us versus them,” and to be political means picking a team without truly knowing the issues. Because we do voter registration, we do not want to pressure students to feel they need to “pick a side.” With TX Votes, we encourage students to learn about the issues that are most important to them with an open mind, or at least with a civil tongue. It can be easy to lose oneself in a heated argument, but we see merit in being able to shake an opponent’s hand and walk away with respect for one another.
I am partisan, so how could I get involved with a nonpartisan organization?
We welcome all political backgrounds and viewpoints at TX Votes! Although as a collective group we do not take stances on political issues or candidates, we invite the open debate of ideas in a respectful manner. We also believe we are a unique outlet for partisan students. As a smaller organization, we have more officer positions available for students looking to add leadership experience to their resume. We are also flexible because of our size – if a motivated student sees a community need the organization could fill, we encourage members to create new positions or committees. In addition, having a nonpartisan organization on one's resume demonstrates to potential employers you see value in speaking to all kinds of people and can communicate political ideas in a respectful manner – even when engaging others who do not share the same views.
What activities or events does TX Votes do? What have you done in the past?
We engage in many different kinds of activities. We hold organization meetings every other week on campus where we come together to plan larger events, talk about issues or elections, stream a Harvard Institute of Politics live forum, and socialize with one another. Every semester we try to hold a deputization meeting so all our members and interested students can get trained to register voters in Travis County. Sometimes our meetings are more informal where we meet at a restaurant off campus to have coffee or play Geeks Who Drink trivia.
We also engage in campus-wide activities that encourage voter registration and education. We table on the West Mall to register students to vote or update their voting address, and we also help organize and participate in Hook the Vote with UT Student Government (a series of nonpartisan campus activities and a midnight rally to register voters). We host and cohost campus debates between the University Democrats and College Republicans. During the early voting period of the fall 2014 midterm elections, we hosted “Parties for the People: Undecided Voter Fair,” where we passed out voter guides and organized multiple partisan organizations to come together and provide educational materials on candidates and positions so UT students could feel confident in making informed voting decisions. We’ve also hosted debate watch and election results viewing parties, and in the past have welcomed political guests to speak on issues important to university students.
TX Votes members also have access to Annette Strauss events – our members receive priority volunteer spots for events like the Texas Tribune Festival and Texas Conference on Civic Life, and are privy to New Politics Forum event discounts.
Why work so hard to register students if Texas is a deep red state? What do you think of those trying to turn Texas blue?
Because we are strictly nonpartisan, we feel it’s important to represent all sides in order to have a well-rounded understanding of politics and allow students to make their own decisions on their electoral choices. Regardless of political position, we believe in a classical democratic model – in that democracy works best with more people involved. We believe our leaders should reflect the people. If more people, including students, vote and Texas remains red, that’s okay. If more people vote and Texas turns blue, that’s okay. Our government should be an accurate representation of Texans and reflect its constituents.
Don’t all students and young people vote Democrat?
No – students come from all across the country and have different life experiences and different political views. It would be inaccurate to label a large and diverse population with one voting viewpoint. Citizens are always changing and growing. Students are engaged in civic life at different levels, and we are at this prestigious university to get a world-class education - Civic participation is part of that experience and that responsibility. Our voices should be heard equally, not regarded as a single mass voting bloc.
What do you say to students who say their vote doesn’t matter?
Individually, a single person can feel that their one vote won’t make a difference. But if hundreds of thousands of Americans feel that way, that’s hundreds of thousands of voices and votes that don’t get counted. Elections have been won and lost on the smallest of margins, and some local elections in the past have had only one person decide the winner. Votes do matter, and establishing the habit of voting at a young age increases civic participation throughout adulthood.
Should I register to vote in my college community or in my hometown?
You do have a vested interest in the local issues of your college community. Issues such as off-campus housing and zoning restrictions, the environment, taxes, transportation and personal safety all affect your quality of life. Voting in your college community is more convenient, and allows you to skip the process of absentee voting in normal years. However, if you feel more knowledgeable about your hometown issues, and you have an interest in the elections there, please register to vote there. If it makes no difference, you may want to register to vote locally.
Note: If you have a state-funded scholarship or a privately-funded scholarship designated for a local student, be sure to check the terms of your scholarship before registering to vote in your college community. You could lose your eligibility.
Can I register to vote at school and in my hometown?
No. You must choose which county you are registered to vote in. You can only be registered to vote for one address at a time - re-registering at a different address will get rid of your previous registration status.
You should weigh several things before registering to vote. Where you register determines what is on your ballot (i.e. what you can vote for). If you identify with or are passionate about an issue back home, you should register to vote there. If you are passionate about Austin races, you should register to vote here. You can change where you are registered for in-between elections (for instance: There is a school district bond election that you’re passionate about back home in the spring, and a midterm election you want to vote in in Austin in the fall - you can register back home for that spring, and re-register for Austin before the fall deadline to register to vote).
You should also consider convenience. Are you voting in-person? Absentee (if eligible)? Would campus shutting down make it harder for you to vote in Austin? These are things you should consider when deciding where to register to vote. If you have any questions or want to talk this through with someone, please contact the TX Votes Hotline at (512) 814-5401.
What happens if I am turned away at the polls?
With the enactment of HAVA, you are allowed to ask for a provisional ballot, and you are allowed to vote. After Election Day, you will be informed if your vote was counted or the reason that you were disqualified from voting. If you have registered, and you feel that there has been some sort of mix-up, please do not leave without voting. Voting is your right. If you face any trouble when you go to vote, call the Election Protection Hotline Number (linked on the Voting Information page) to receive assistance.
What if I don’t have one of the 7 forms of acceptable voter ID? Can I still vote?
If you are a citizen that is registered to vote and you do not have one of these seven listed forms of acceptable voter ID for the state of Texas, call your county and ask how they would like you to prove residency at the polling station. This is likely going to be a utility bill with your name on it, but call ahead to double-check what your county will accept.
You may be offered the option of voting with a provisional ballot. Do NOT take this option unless it is your last chance to vote (Election Day). Provisional ballots are counted after the election, if the voter’s registration is up to date. Provisional ballots do not allow you to vote on every race. If you’re Early Voting, you have plenty of time to get the appropriate documentation or call your county (bit.ly/TXEOC) and the Election Protection Hotline (866-687-8683) to find out what you need to do. Accept and vote with a provisional ballot only if it is Election Day and you do not have time to figure out what is needed for you to vote with a full ballot.