AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A bill spearheaded by college students from across the state would require major public universities to add polling places to campuses.
House Bill 375 states that the commissioners court of a county shall designate a polling place at “a location on the main campus” of colleges at which at least 10,000 students are enrolled.
Students from at least ten different universities in the state crafted the legislation, which was filed by Austin Democrat Gina Hinojosa.
“Based off this last election in the multiple campuses that experienced voter suppression and undue barriers to voting there is considerable work for the Texas Legislature to do on this front,” Hinojosa said. “It is imperative that the Texas Legislature ensures our young students are able to participate in the democratic process.”
Students who joined Rep. Hinojosa at a Friday press conference in the Capitol cited a lack of voting locations inspired their work.
“Only seven of the 22 largest public universities in Texas have an on-campus polling location and college students in the state of Texas do not have consistent access to polling locations, which abridges their fundamental right to vote,” Maya Patel, who attends the University of Texas at Austin, said.
Texas State University student Natalie Ferguson said requiring bigger campuses to have on-campus polling locations on election day would “ensure that college students of all political affiliations have access to the polls.”
At Texas State, the controversy surrounding hours and lines at the on-campus polling place contributed to Ferguson’s involvement in this legislation.
“Many students vote for the first time while in college so it only makes sense to have the voting process easy and accessible,” Ferguson said, citing busy schedules of her classmates. “Giving students access to more polling places affords them with an easy opportunity to actively vote while in college and is likely to encourage participation in the democratic process after graduation.”
Other students mentioned transportation trouble as a reason for needing more polling places.
“Without this bill, so many people fall victim to not being able to vote due to not having the means, the resources, or the accessibility to it,” Texas Southern University student Ashley Johnson said.
The bill was referred to the House elections committee this week.