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The Battalion

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

The Battalion

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MSC not selected as early voting location for November elections

Vote+Here+Sign
Photo by Meredith Seaver
Vote Here Sign

After a 4-1 decision on July 5, the Brazos County Commissioners Court approved a list of early voting locations for the upcoming November election — the list did not include the Memorial Student Center, or MSC.
The MSC, which falls in Brazos County Precinct 3, will be replaced by College Station City Hall as an early voting location, along with Brazos County Election Administrator Office, Arena Hall, Galilee Baptist Church and College Station Utilities Meeting & Training Facility. During the first week of early voting, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. following a unanimously approved amendment by the court. The MSC will be open as a voting location on Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

County Election Administrator Trudy Hancock said the change in early voting location was proposed to her by Precinct 3 Commissioner Nancy Berry in hopes to reduce confusion for non-student residents of College Station.

“Early voting locations, if we have any change in those locations, they’re recommended by the commissioner or changed if we have a problem with a location, then the commissioner in that district helps me figure out where to have [voting locations],” Hancock said. “We haven’t had any problems with [the MSC] per se, but the normal residents of College Station find it hard to navigate campus. It was brought to me by Commissioner Berry, she asked me if I could vet out the City of College Station Town Hall to see if it was available, the City Hall said they would make their facility available for use, which is how we proceeded in [Commissioners] Court.”

Precinct 2 Commissioner Russ Ford was the only dissenting vote for the location change. Ford said he felt the court did not give enough serious consideration to keeping the MSC as an early voting location. 

“I think [the Commissioners Court] is being very short-sighted and not really paying attention to what the people want and ask for,” Ford said. “We should be trying to get more people to vote, to make it easier to vote.” 
Hancock said early votes at the MSC fluctuate and are dependent on the type of election cycle. 

“Early voting turnout at the MSC is greatly dependent on the election,” Hancock said. “In the presidential year, we see a really large turnout from the campus. In the primary and primary run-off, we didn’t see a large turnout, but more than I expected.”

Berry said she believes there will be greater voter turnout at City Hall due to the residents of the College Hills, Emerald Forest and the South Gate area. 

“I think having it at the College Station City Hall will eliminate some of the wait times at the South College Station [voting] location,” Berry said. 

Berry said there is typically only one early voting location per precinct, but Brazos County residents can vote at any poll and are not restricted to voting in their precinct.  
“The problem with having two [voting locations] is staffing,” Berry said. “Most of the poll workers are older, they’re retired and they just frankly can’t get enough poll workers. You need seven poll workers per location. We had a number of polling chairmen come to our meeting when we decided this and said that if you don’t have seven it’s just a very long, laborious process.”
Hancock also noted that registered voters can vote anywhere within the county throughout the early and regular voting periods.

“We try to make our locations as easily accessible as possible. I do understand that the MSC is very convenient for the students, but we do have a large population that like to vote early that find campus daunting,” Hancock said. “Early voting and Election Day, you can go to any site. If you live across town from campus, you may choose a site when you’re going out to class or work.”

Ford said he was surprised Berry did not have a better understanding of why the MSC is a vital voting location as A&M’s campus falls under her supervision. 
“[Berry] should very clearly understand why it’s important to have an early polling location there,” Ford said. “From the minute the discussion opened, not only were they not interested in trying to keep from disenfranchising the voters in East Brazos County, but also from disenfranchising the students and making it more challenging for them to vote.”

Berry said hearing from non-student residents influenced her vote to change the early voting venue. 

“I heard from more residents and only two students who spoke up on behalf of the MSC, and because of the number of voters who traditionally vote [in] College Station as opposed to the numbers who voted [at] the MSC, it was an easy choice for me to make for College Station City Hall, and I hope the students will go out and vote,” Berry said. 

Due to the location change, Ford said he believes there will be a lower student voting turnout. 

“People are creatures of habit, and if you’re used to voting at a certain location, that’s where you go to vote,” Ford said. “If you go there and that location is not open, or you do your research and it’s not open, it may just be, ‘To heck with it’ kind of a situation, which is not what we should want.”

Berry said there are no currently planned accommodations to navigate students to City Hall from A&M’s campus during the early voting period. 

 Hancock said although the location is moving, her hope is that students still take time to vote early and for an increased Election Day presence in the MSC. 

“The City Hall is right across the street from campus, I know it’s convenient for students,” Hancock said. “We do plan on beefing up our [MSC] location for Election Day, just in case we see a huge upturn for those students who did not vote early. We’re working with the MSC to see if they can move us to a bigger room so we can have a bigger staff and more machines to facilitate a bigger turnout.”

Ford said he believes the court’s decision to remove the MSC as an early voting location lacked assessment and was made without proper consideration. 

“Setting the elections and the election locations is probably one of the most important functions that we do as commissioners,” Ford said. “I think we’ve taken it very lightly and didn’t even request further or better information.”

Management senior Ariana Marin spoke to the court on July 5 before it made its final decision on voting locations. Marin said removing the MSC as an early voting location would disenfranchise those who live on campus, those without vehicles to vote elsewhere and university staff who can’t afford to leave for long periods of time off campus. 

In her speech to the court, Marin read a statement from electronic systems engineering technology senior Waaiz Khan. In his statement, Khan urged the court to reconsider eliminating the MSC as an early voting location. 

“As a full time student at Texas A&M, I visit campus almost daily,” Khan’s statement to the court read. “I go to Zachry and Thompson for engineering classes, Evans for late-night finals cramming and the MSC for anything from textbooks to Spin-n-Stone. I don’t, however, go often to the Bryan Courthouse or [College Station] City Hall.”

Changing voting accessibility for students will inevitably lead to an overall lower voter turnout due to the nature of most A&M students’ schedules, and further promotes voter suppression, Khan’s statement read.   
“The MSC has been an easily accessible and reliable polling place since I start[ed] attending A&M — why change that now?” Khan said. “For many students, this polling spot allowed them to participate in our democratic process despite a demanding schedule. Not to mention, saving on expensive gas by taking a bus to and from campus instead of driving downtown.”

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