UTSA ruled out as an early-voting site
Web Posted: 10/05/2006 11:08 PM CDT
Students at the University of Texas at San Antonio got a pep talk on the importance of voting Thursday, but found out that doing so will be slightly harder than it has been in the past.
Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams made a stop at the university as part of his statewide voter education tour, VOTEXAS, telling the students they represent “the future of Texas.” But student leaders learned the night before that Bexar County nixed the university as an early voting location, a blow to their efforts to get more students to the polls.
“(Students) took the first steps in getting the voting location here two years ago, and it was expected we would be able to vote here,” said Adam Cowdin, UTSA’s student body president.
Cowdin got the bad news Wednesday night, and approached County Judge Nelson Wolff at Thursday’s event to ask why UTSA would no longer host voters.
Wolff said there were problems with the location.
“You’ve got to have your sites available to the general public, not just a select group of people,” Wolff said.
In other words, non-student voters complained that parking was a nightmare and they couldn’t find the right building, said Jacquelyn Callanen, Bexar County’s elections administrator.
Moreover, other colleges such as Trinity University and St. Mary’s University wanted locations too, she said.
“We can’t look like we are playing favorites,” Callanen said.
That explanation did little to ease Cowdin’s disappointment.
Students worked hard to get a voting location in 2004, he said. They deputized 60 students to register voters and worked with Valero Energy Corp. to shuttle employees to the polls. That same year, the university hosted the city’s largest election night watch gathering, which drew hundreds of people and was televised on local news stations, Cowdin said.
With 28,000 students and about 4,000 faculty and staff, UTSA represents a sizable voting bloc, even if young people don’t vote in droves, Cowdin said. And the university could surely make changes to better accommodate voters.
“It seems like it would be in the city’s best interests,” said Albert Carrisalez, the university’s director of external affairs.
Callanen said it’s too late this year to include UTSA, but she is willing to discuss how the university can get its polling site back for future elections. In the meantime, students can organize bus trips to nearby voting locations, she said.
Or be content with pep talks from state officials.
“As I look out at the audience, I’m reminded that you are the future of Texas,” Williams said, speaking to fewer than 25 students scattered in a large auditorium. “We need to know what your vision for Texas is.”
After his talk, Williams beckoned students to an electronic voting machine to demonstrate how it makes voting “easier, faster and more secure,” in the words of the VOTEXAS slogan.
“C’mon guys,” Williams said with a wink. “This is your big chance. I can tell you, I have had many a young person say to me, ‘Mr. Secretary, this is neat, this is cool.’”