Election Day brings patriotic buzz to The University of Texas campus



Students outside of University Co-Op brave the rain to cast their votes. Students outside of the University Co-op braved the rain showers Tuesday and lined up to cast their votes.[/caption]

The University of Texas campus was mostly full of patriotic pride Tuesday as the typically busy campus of more than 50,000 students received an added jolt for Election Day.

Students joined Travis County residents in choosing from a robust ballot that included a historic presidential race, several congressional and state legislature seats, five Austin City Council seats and a $720 million mobility bond proposal.

Of the 149 polling places in Travis County, two were located on the Austin campus. At the Peter T. Flawn Academic Center, hundreds of students, many of whom were first-time voters, made up a line that stretched around three sides of the student library’s perimeter.

The estimated two-hour wait at the FAC failed to deter many students, including Amanda Gonzalez, who jumped on the back of the line after class. For Gonzalez, a 20-year old junior biochemistry major, Tuesday marked her first time casting a vote in a general election. She said she became politically impassioned over the course of the election cycle and did not mind the two-hour wait if it meant fulfilling a civic duty.

“It’s worth it,” Gonzalez said. “It’s important that we as students get involved in our government and what’s going on around us.”

Student cast votes at University Co-Op polling station. Students prepare to cast their votes Tuesday at the University Co-op polling station.[/caption]

Next to Gonzalez was Uriel Buitrheo, a freshman mechanical engineering student. Buitrheo, 18, said he came out to his cast his first vote so his voice could be heard. Though he did not disclose which candidate he supported, he said the biggest issue for him was government corruption.

“I believe that all levels of government are corrupt at some point,” Buitrheo said. “That’s definitely something I’ve been concerned about.”

As the ring of the UT Tower bell officially marked the afternoon, rain began to fall from the gloomy skies. But instead of clearing out campus, the patriotic shouts from students, such as “Your vote is your voice, use it!” only got louder.

While students lined up at the FAC found refuge under the building’s overhang, those outside the campus’s other polling location, the University Co-op, braved the light shower.

Yusra Ahmad, a recent UT alum, got in line during her lunch break. Ahmad, who holds voting as a top priority for any American citizen, said she would be writing in former Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders for president. Ahmad said the excitement she felt in supporting Barack Obama during her first eligible election was replaced this time by a sense of obligation.

“It’s less excitement and more of taking a stand,” Ahmad said. “This time I have to go vote because I don’t feel very good about the election process.”

But regardless of how she felt about this year’s candidates, Ahmad said she would never miss an opportunity to cast her vote.

“If people fought long and hard for voting in general, and second of all, for female voting rights, I don’t want to sit at home,” Ahmad said. “I still believe as an American citizen, I need to go voice an opinion. Even if it doesn’t count, it doesn’t matter. It needs to be heard—that’s just what democracy is.”

Student organizations get active

UT Votes hands out free cookies at the polls. Brendalys Lebron, a junior history major and member of UT Votes, thanked students outside the polls Tuesday for their civic engagement with free cookies.[/caption]

Student organizations, both political and nonpolitical, were out in full force Tuesday. Students could barely walk 10 yards without being beckoned by another student with a piece of advertorial literature, or persuaded to lend an ear in exchange for free food.

Ashley Alcantara, a senior government major, joined fellow members of the University Democrats in handing out bottles of water, cookies and a list of the group’s endorsed politicians for the local elections. Alcantara said the group’s mission for the day was to not only get students to the polling lines but to keep them there.

“We don’t want them to have to choose between their thirst and voting,” Alcantara said.

UT Votes is a nonpartisan student organization whose members work year-round to encourage students towards civic engagement.

Tuesday was less work and more a ride off into the sunset, according to member Brendalys Lebron, a junior history major. The UT Votes table was strategically positioned to pick off students who just voted at the FAC with members giving out free cookies as a “thank you” to the voters.

The group also hosted a Pick Your Politician contest, which asked students to pick who they thought was going to win in each election from presidential down to the local. Students who picked all the correct candidates would be entered into a drawing for a free Kindle Fire tablet device.

However, not all on campus were passionate about voting. The Revolutionary Student Front is a student organization that encourages students to boycott the election and stay away from participating in a “fixed system.”

“I’m actively boycotting the elections because I don’t want to participate in a state that deports and kills people who look like me,” said Francisco Hernandez, a junior Latin-American studies major. “My casting a vote gives consent to a state I don’t agree with and that I think should be abolished.”

Hernandez said he also voted for Sanders in the primaries.