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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Guest Column: No to Prop. 1

 
 

Texas A&M students should take the time to vote against the College Station ballot initiative Proposition 1 on Nov. 8. Doing so presents the greatest opportunity for student involvement in local government that has ever existed.
Few Aggies care much about what goes on locally, and perhaps fewer vote in local elections. Unfortunately, many of the policies most affecting students come from our local government. Policies such as rental registration, rental inspection and limiting the number of unrelated renters have all been considered or adopted in the past by the City of College Station. Rarely, however, do students actively get involved in local elections to attempt to affect the outcome. Some of it can be chalked up to apathy — but some of it can be attributed to the difficult election date.
For years, the College Station municipal election date has been the second Saturday in May, conflicting with final exams, and making it difficult for many students to vote. As a result, few students vote, and voter turnout from identifiable student precincts is rarely more than one or two hundred voters. This is in spite of the fact that students comprise between one-third and one-half of the population of College Station.
An historic opportunity exists Nov. 8 for students to change the election date from May to November, by voting against Prop. 1 on the College Station ballot. The City Council of College Station placed the measure there with the idea that it represented a referendum of whether or not voters wanted to keep May elections. If voters choose not to, then November elections will be enacted by the council instead.
This is all made possible by the Military and Overseas Voting Act, a federal law requiring the State of Texas to move primary runoff dates into May, conflicting with local elections. As a result, College Station must decide whether to move elections to November, or continue holding them in May during non-primary years. The move to May requires longer terms — four years instead of the current three for council members — in elections held every two years during odd years. It also costs more money, and ensures that College Station and Bryan are entirely separated in their electoral cycles (Bryan already decided to move to November).
By contrast, there are many reasons to choose November elections by voting against Prop. 1. For students, the most obvious reason is that greater accessibility to the election cycle will ensure more student involvement in important local elections affecting them.
It is also worth noting that the November election date ensures that vastly more people — not just students — will have the opportunity to participate in their city by making decisions about who is elected to city council. Currently, local elections have such low turnout that a small group of monied special interests can affect the entire outcome and, by extension, city policy. A larger turnout ensures greater representation of all College Station citizens, making it more difficult for special interests to unduly influence.
Furthermore, November elections will almost certainly cost the taxpayers of College Station less than continuing May elections. In a difficult economy, it makes sense for our city to conserve our financial resources.
The students of Texas A&M frequently vote in the thousands for student body elections that have little, if any bearing on their lives. Yet a local government, under which most Aggies live, has tremendous authority to regulate and restrict students and their dwellings, and almost no students vote in those elections.
I urge the students of Texas A&M to take local matters into their own hands and stand up for their rights in the City of College Station by voting against Prop. 1. Even if it is the only time you will ever vote in a local election, your decision will make a lasting difference for years to come.
Jess Fields is a senior political science major and College Station Place 2 city council member.

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