Youth Voter Turnout Increases in Travis County
By Alyssa Crosby
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — As a first-generation US citizen, Kara Fields takes voting seriously.
She was one of the more than 20,000 people who voted early at two polling places on the University of Texas campus.
“Everyone was just so much more invested in this presidential election just because of everything that was experienced in the last four years,” Fields said.
“I also think coronavirus and the issue of how this country was handling COVID-19 was a really big voter issue this year, as well.”
UT usually has one voting location at the Flawn Academic Center. This year, the Travis County Clerk added a second location at Gregory Gymnasium to promote social distancing due to COVID-19.
Youth showed up to the polls in record numbers around the nation. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said at one point during the early voting period there was a higher turnout of voters aged 18 to 29 than Baby Boomers (55-75).
This pattern was evident at UT’s voting locations.
In 2016, nearly 20,500 people voted on UT’s campus during the early voting period and election day combined. This year, early voting alone nearly surpassed that number.
In Travis County, a record 97 percent of eligible voters are currently registered.
Due to COVID-19, the usual bustle of tabling and recruitment on UT’s campus looked different.
Political groups were limited in their typical activities, though they still found alternative ways to get their messages out.
Jordan Clements, chairman of UT’s chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas, said his group participated in phone banking.
“We will…call these numbers that [voters] put on their voter [registration] forms,” Clements said.
“We do a lot of block-walking…where we go door to door and [give information].”
Ricky Pratchett first registered to vote in Travis County a few years ago at one of UT’s tabling events. He also voted early this year.
“When I vote, I feel good afterwards,” Pratchett said. “I hope that good feeling is held by everyone who is in our generation that went out to vote and that can continue to inspire us to keep voting.”
Fields believes the trend of increased youth participation will continue.
“Voting is a habit that you acquire just from learned behavior and seeing what other people do,” Fields said.
“If you develop this habit of voting, you’re more likely to continue that later on in your life.”
Travis County had 71.06% voter turnout with 612,696 ballots cast out of a possible 862,163. More than 90% of the county’s voters cast ballots during the early voting period.