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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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MSC to be reinstated as an early voting location after continued community support

The+list+of+the+24+voter+center+recommended+locations+and+all+recent+changes+in+Brazos+County%2C+presented+to+the+Comissioners+Court+and+public+on+June+28%2C+2023.

The list of the 24 voter center recommended locations and all recent changes in Brazos County, presented to the Comissioner’s Court and public on June 28, 2023.

After the controversial removal of the Memorial Student Center, or MSC, as an early voting location last year, it has been readded as a recommended voting center.

On Wednesday, June 28, the Brazos County Commissioner’s Court held a public workshop session to review all voting center recommendations. Multiple community members, students and representatives from local voting advocacy groups attended the meeting at the Brazos County Administration Building to listen to the Vote Center Review Committee’s presentation, led by Brazos County Elections Administrator Trudy Hancock.

Listed on their online agenda, there are 24 recommended voting locations, which notably include the MSC and the College Station City Hall.

In July 2022, the MSC was not selected as an early voting location by a 4-1 vote, with several voting officials citing the logistical costs of adding additional proposed locations. Instead, the MSC was replaced by the College Station City Hall. This change was proposed by Precinct 3 Commissioner Nancy Berry, who intended to help reduce confusion for residents who struggled with navigating the Texas A&M campus layout.

Multiple A&M students voiced their opinions at the following meetings, along with the A&M Student Senate passing legislation to advocate for the reinstatement of the MSC, stating that removing the central building on campus interfered with students’ access to voting. Former Precinct 2 Commissioner Russ Ford was the only dissenting vote against the location change, being outspoken about how other members didn’t understand the importance of the MSC and ensuring student voters were not disenfranchised.

Although many students on campus drive, not all commissioners accounted for the distance from campus for students who lack such resources. The city hall is no less than 30 minutes one-way if students walked, and factoring in waiting times and walking back, many students expressed concerns over dedicating so much time within their schedules to vote.

In October 2022, students advocated for transportation to city hall, and the A&M chapter of Mobilize, Organize, Vote and Empower, or MOVE Texas, partnered with Mothers Against Greg Abbott to arrange for shuttles with Aggie Spirit Buses.

Berry apologized in September 2022 and stated she was in favor of reinstating the MSC early voting location in 2023. Hancock admitted the MSC was a popular early voting location, later stating she hoped the city hall would still be a viable voting location for students, according to KBTX.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Hancock began her presentation by addressing an ADA survey of the 24 voting centers, entailing what changes were made to ensure physical accessibility. Hancock ensured all issues would be fixed by the beginning of the early voting period.

Hancock then reviewed the list of recommended locations:

During public comments and discussion, several speakers testified.

Maggie DiSanza, a University of Texas English junior, member of the MSC Votes Coalition and is the Central Texas campus organizer for Texas Rising, read a letter on behalf of the Texas Civil Rights Project.

“Texas A&M is the largest university in the country, with an enrollment of over 74,000 students, and a sizable portion of the student body are eligible voters,” DiSanza said. “Therefore, in order to ensure that Texas A&M students, who are central to the community fabric of Brazos County, are able to easily cast their ballots, it’s imperative that a polling place be established on campus, that many of these voters traverse on a daily basis.”

DiSanza said campus polling locations provide access for students to make their voices heard — who are often young, first-time voters — sparking continued, lifelong patterns of civic engagement.

Kennedy Fears, the Central Texas advocacy field organizer of Texas Rising, read a letter on behalf of Common Cause Texas.

“As elected officials and representatives of the campus community, it is imperative to remember that communities know where their center is and population hubs are,” Fears said. “Today, you have students and advocates telling you that the MSC is a necessary location for the enfranchisement of student voters.”

Fears said it’s imperative that the Commissioner’s Court listens to advocates so that “students do not need to come to [Brazos] county every year, every election, continuing to speak on the same case about the MSC polling location.”

Prairie View A&M University graduate Kala Washington represented herself, briefly speaking about her experience with voter suppression due to a similar polling location closure while at PVAMU.

“When we were moved and got our polling location taken away … our numbers went down to one-fourth of the voters that we normally had,” Washington said. “As you can see, that’s a large number when you’re looking for having your constituents’ voices heard.”

Washington said the MSC polling location can act to bridge the gap between the campus and community when non-student residents vote there.

Republican Party of Brazos County Chairman Elianor Vessali, clarified that while she was in favor of reinstating the MSC, the moving of the Precinct 3 early voting location to the city hall was not disenfranchisement.

“Having [the voting location] at College Station City Hall, as it was — down the road, equidistant of what students maybe travel to go to classes on West Campus or elsewhere — was not suppression of the vote.”

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About the Contributor
Ana Renfroe
Ana Renfroe, Head News Editor
Ana Renfroe, Class of 2025, is a journalism junior with a minor in professional writing from Bryan, Texas. Ana has served as The Battalion's head news editor from May 2023 to May 2024. Previously, she was the assistant news editor for the spring 2023 semester. Ana has covered breaking news, politics, and more. She typically covered the Texas A&M System and university administration, Texas and Bryan-College Station politics, student government and more. Ana previously hosted and produced episodes of The Batt Signal, The Battalion's news podcast. Additionally, she was a copyeditor and feature writer for Maroon Life magazine, and helped contribute to the Aggieland Yearbook.
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