“Unprecedented” surge in voter registration makes 18-to-25-year-olds largest voting block in Travis County

Maya Patel, a junior chemistry major at the University of Texas, spoke Friday about efforts to increase young people's voter registration numbers and participation in the 2018 midterm election.

Maya Patel, a junior chemistry major at the University of Texas, spoke Friday about efforts to increase young people's voter registration numbers and participation in the 2018 midterm election.

Since the 2014 midterm election, the 18-to-25-year-old voter block in Travis County has increased by 6 percent—85,000 people—said Bruce Elfant, Travis County's tax assessor-collector and voter registrar. Young voters are now the largest voting block in the county, he said.

“This is the largest increase of younger registered voters we’ve ever documented here in Travis County,” he said. “We’re excited by what we’re seeing right now with young voters. It’s very important that young voters help shape the government that they want to see.”

As it stands, 39 percent of eligible Travis County 18-to-25-year-olds are registered to vote, he said.

At the close of the fourth day of early voting, a record-setting 10,465 people had cast ballots at one of the two polling locations at the University of Texas, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said. Students, faculty and staff are voting at the Flawn Academic Center, 2400 Inner Campus Drive, and the Perry-Castaneda Library, 101 E. 21st Street, which was added this year.

Maya Patel, a junior chemistry major at the University of Texas, said students are registering to vote in high numbers this year because of the current political environment and concerted efforts by campus groups to get young people civically engaged.

Patel is the interim president for TX Votes, a student organization at the University of Texas that aims to increase electoral participation across campus.

“Before the registration deadline we went into over 260 classrooms with the professors’ permission to register students during their class period,” she said. “We also tabled a lot, encouraged students to register to vote and [distributed] a lot of non-partisan voter information.”

Another tool Patel highlighted is the new BeVotes application for IOS devices. The app, designed by students for students at UT Austin, includes information about what to take to the polls, where to vote in Travis County and how long the lines are, said Susan Nold, executive director of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life.

“We’ve been really encouraged this year in the widespread interest in this election and students registering to vote,” Nold said.
By Taylor Jackson Buchanan
Taylor Buchanan joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 after completing a master of journalism degree from the University of Texas. She worked as the senior reporter for Community Impact's Southwest Austin edition and is now the editor for the company's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition.


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