Texas A&M Students continue to fight for Memorial Student Center as an early voting location

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 9:44 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Texas A&M students returned to the Brazos County Commissioners Court for the third time on Tuesday.

Students came to express their frustrations to county commissioners over College Station City Hall replacing the Memorial Student Center as an early voting location. The decision was made in July, a time when many students were still away for the summer. Texas A&M students said they were shocked when they heard the news and feel the decision disenfranchises their vote.

The students expected the commissioners court to discuss reversing the decision for this year’s upcoming election, but the agenda item was for a discussion on it’s possible return next year.

Kristina Samuel, a Texas A&M senior said with the growing youth population becoming voters in Texas she’s concerned the absence of the MSC will deter young voters and potentially not represent the local community.

“In terms of this transiting into life long voters we are starting to vote now and this will set the tone in terms of what kind of voters we will become,” Samuel said. “If we want to have a democracy that represents our elected officials and that represents our communities then we want to make sure we are incentivizing youth to become life long habitual voters.”

As for Texas A&M junior Sabrina Wren she’s worried students will have difficultly voting due to busy schedules or a lack of transportation something she’s seen and experienced.

“I know for my room mate it takes her two hours to get to campus just taking the bus and we live very close to campus, it’s a 15-minute bike ride,” Wren said. “So students who need to vote they don’t have the time to take two hours just to get to the city hall. The bus doesn’t even take them directly to city hall it’s about a 12-minute walk from the bus stop.”

Nicole Gallucci, a concerned Brazos County citizen said students practically live on campus and they don’t always have the same options permeant residents do when it comes to voting.

“Whether it was a mistake or it was intended, I believe this equates to voter suppression,” Gallucci said. “The MSC serves an abundance of workers, lower end workers and faculty as well as professors.”

The suggestion to replace the MSC with College Station City Hall came from Nancy Berry, Brazos County Commissioner Precinct 3. Berry cited that non-students had expressed difficulties navigating the Texas A&M campus.

During the meeting Berry told students she heard them “loud and clear,” but she thinks it’s to late to reverse the decision for 2022.

”I’m in favor of going back to the MSC for 23′,” Berry said. “I am sorry that I made a mistake when I did, and I apologize, but I think we need to move forward.”

Samuel said according to the election code, which students presented at the meeting, the commissioners court could make the MSC an early voting location again this year as long as the decision is made before mid-October.

“I would say after coming here three weeks in a row now, and probably needing to come in the future, it does feel like they aren’t listening,” Samuel said. “The feasibility is there, the legality is there, but at the end of the day it’s something they’re just choosing not to push for.”

Brazos County elections coordinator Krystal Ocon told the commissioners court if the MSC returned as an early voting location this year it would require changing the ballots. Ocon said updated ballots for military voters overseas must be sent out by Friday, and 150 had already been sent.

“We have done the LNA testing, which has to be posted 48 hours before so all of our entities can make their way to our office and do the LNA testing, so we won’t be able to do that,” Ocon said.

The sole vote against the decision back in July was Russ Ford, Brazos County Commissioner Precinct 2 who has since supported students in their efforts. Ford said it’s important the commissioners court doesn’t disenfranchise young voters and particularly first time voters.

“I appreciate the way that they have turned out to speak on the issue,” Ford said. “Their arguments are well thought out and articulate. I apologize that the establishment did not show any concern until they spoke.”

The commissioners court said they plan to have a potential workshop on the matter which could be set for next Tuesday. The exact date has yet to be announced.

Students are also making their voice heard by signing a petition. The link to the petition can be found on the Move Texas TAMU Instagram page.

The MSC will remain an election day polling location.

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