The Issue of Student Voter Registration

By Margaret Gallagher
News Reporter

A 34-year-old law in Texas requires high school principals to register eligible students to vote. The mandate was written by the late Rep. Paul Ragsdale, D-Dallas, and signed into law in 1983 by the late Governor Mark White.

Intended to present political action as a step towards the independence of adulthood, such measures are promising for families and their soon to be graduated students, but data collected by the Texas Civil Rights Project estimate that less than half of newly eligible-to-vote students and young adults in Texas are registered.

Here in San Marcos, there is only one high school– a relatively small pool of seniors requiring such outreach, but Juan Miguel Arredondo, Secretary of the Board of Trustees of SMCISD, says that this may do more harm for the administration’s success rate.

“It’s hard to get the kind of energy around those efforts,” he said, talking about broadcasting the message to seniors, “just because it’s such a small group.”

But what has been done?

“We partner with several organizations, the Junior Statesmen of America, that spread the message, and we’ve also partnered at the school district level with the local League of Women Voters in Hays County and they go and table in our cafeterias at our high school.”

But when KTSW spoke with students to see how San Marcos CISD shapes up alongside the reported low statewide numbers, they were surprised to hear of the supposed efforts to register voters on campus.

“With [the National Honor Society] they told us to register, but that was it,” said Juliana Natal, senior at SMCISD.

And even more disheartening, “Without knowing my options first, I really wouldn’t put in a vote,” said Amanda Telles.

Jared Kirk says he handled registering when he got his license, but being so near graduation without a presentation of voter registration forms, he expressed frustration.

“I think that it is completely crazy that they’re not registering us to vote. Voting isn’t a hot topic, as important as it is, not only at the presidential level, but at the local level.”

A thorough high school education expands past the classroom, into the first steps of citizenship, and it is a student’s right to have their questions answered, the necessary resources provided; yet it doesn’t take going past our local school district to see the disconnect between student and administration that is becoming the norm. So how do we solve this?

It was education reform and passion for civil duty that Paul Ragsdale wanted to highlight in his career with his papers published less than 40 years ago, but it takes conscious endeavor and understanding of the issue for change to become resolute. San Marcos could be the city setting the example for exemplary standards in Texas– but it all starts with communication, and inspiration, for the students who already crave the next step.

Featured image by Margaret Gallagher.

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