Masked But Not Silenced: Lamar Students Register to Vote
The start of school looked a little different this year. The long lines where we usually caught up with friends as we waited to get our new IDs and schedules were no more. They were replaced with long lines of students waving to each other from the pandemic bubble of our cars, interacting safely with masks as the new "must-have" accessory. High school prepares students for the future and all the responsibility that entails as students graduate into adulthood. So, in that spirit, there was also something extra in the Lamar pickup lines this year – volunteers helping with voter registration.
One of those volunteers was Christian Corley. Christian is a certified deputy registrar and a volunteer with the Student Voter Initiative. In previous years, he would make presentations to high school students about the importance of voting and give them an opportunity to register themselves. However, due to unprecedented circumstances, many schools in the Houston area will not have in-person classes before the voter registration deadline. Instead, Christian helped to organized voter drives during school schedule pickups to register newly eligible voters for the upcoming November election.
Christian is motivated to do the work he does because of his experience during the 2016 election. In 2016, he was not informed about an issue with his mailed-in voter registration until weeks after the deadline. As a result, he was unable to vote in the 2016 election. Much of Christian’s volunteer work revolves around ensuring that something similar does not happen to anyone else.
Apart from registering voters, the Student Voter Initiative also focuses on the voter education front. Christian’s favorite website to learn more about who’s on the ballot is vote411.org. Using your location, vote411 shows you all the potential candidates you can vote for as well as a summary of their main platforms. It also will allow you to print a “test ballot” to assist you in remembering all the candidates you have.
When asked about the importance of voting, Christian told me, “Voting is important because it allows everyone to have a voice, and gives us a chance to better understand the platforms that are most influential for people.” He went on explain that, “Citizens can impact their immediate quality of life by voting in local elections. Local elections in Houston have had under 20 percent turnout for years, so people voting would have a major impact on the landscape of the city.”
As voter registration comes to a close – the deadline in Texas is Oct. 5 – Christian and his fellow volunteers have shifted their efforts to “Get Out The Vote” (or GOTV). Christian explained to me that, “GOTV is used to categorize events designed to get people to vote that may not normally vote. This entails everything from canvassing and block-walking to specific events where people can become registered to vote or learn how to be a more conscious voter.”
I asked Christian to tell me what message he had for voters this election and he responded, “My message is that everything you do counts. As a person and as a voter. Get involved if you want because there is a place for you. Everyone must start somewhere, if you haven't started already, then now is the perfect time.”
2020 is sure to be a year like no other. If you’re 18 and over, make sure to register to vote by Oct. 5. If you’re not old enough to vote, encourage those you know who can to get to the polls and vote on Nov. 3. Just because our voices may be masked doesn’t mean that our voices can’t be heard. Let’s all do our part to make sure our democracy reflects the will of the people.
Editor's note: See VoteTexas.gov for more information.
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