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ICYMI: Austin American Statesman Editorial: “Texas Needs Its Young People to Show up at the Polls”

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Registering to vote is one step

Austin, TX – Today, the Austin American Statesman published an editorial encouraging the Texas’ Secretary of State Rolando Pablos and Texas high schools to follow the law and provide voter registration opportunities to eligible students.

A recent study published by the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law found that in 2016 only 14 percent of Texas high schools requested voter registration applications from the Secretary of State.

According to the report from the Texas Civil Rights Project:

The Texas Election Code mandates that the principal of each public and private high school in Texas, or the principal’s designee, serves as the high school deputy registrar (HSDR) and must offer voter registration applications to students, along with a notice explaining how the students may deliver the applications, twice per year. They may also review the applications for completeness, give assistance upon request, and may collect them for delivery to the county registrar.

Mario Carrillo, America’s Voice Texas State Director issued the following statement:

“In 2016, Texas came in at 47th in the country in voter turnout, and for too long, our state’s elected officials have done everything in their power to disenfranchise and prevent young people and people of color from voting.

As a state with an ever-increasing Latino and Asian population, continuous discriminatory efforts of suppressing our votes, from gerrymandering to voter ID laws, undermine our democracy and prevent us from receiving the full representation we deserve.

And now, a law that is supposed to help young Texans register to vote and participate in their country’s democracy continues to be defied. We must do better. Our high school administrators must do better. Our state and our country will only be a true representation of all of us once we all have the same opportunity to participate and make our voices heard.”                                           

Below is an excerpt from the Austin American Statesman’s editorial. Find the piece in its entirety here.

To ensure Texas reaches as many young would-be voters as possible, Pablos’ office should also establish a system, as suggested by the Civil Rights Project report, to track schools that are not complying with their obligations.

Such improvements, however, would only address voter registration for eligible students. Texas schools also need to do their part to better educate students about the power of their vote. Studies show that involving students in election-related learning, simulations of democratic processes and discussions of current events increases the likelihood that a young person will vote.

That’s easy to do during presidential elections, especially one filled with large personalities like those the 2016 campaign season provided, said Duarte, a 16-year government and history teacher. Getting students interested, however, becomes more challenging during nonpresidential election years, he said. That’s when he has to get creative.

This year, for example, Duarte hopes to energize students with news stories on voter restriction laws in Texas and other states.

Ideally, every Texas student would have a passionate teacher like Duarte who values civic education with an emphasis on voting. Even without one, students are entitled to that kind of instruction. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills require that high school students understand the responsibility, duties and obligations of citizenship.

Texas needs its young people to show up at the polls. Registering them to vote is one step. Teaching them the power of their vote is another. Providing both, experts say, increases the likelihood the student will become a voter. And, once a person votes, studies show he or she is more likely to vote again. And again.

Follow Mario Carrillo and America’s Voice: Texas on Twitter: @_mariocarrillo_  and @AmericasVoice

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