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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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The Battalion May 4, 2024

Opinion: Students, faculty, staff disenfranchised

Photo by Kaylee Cogbill

Provost and Executive Vice President Carol Fierke sent emails to students, faculty and staff outlining what the fall semester would look like including 30 minutes between classes instead of 20 and a daily 45 minute break in order for classrooms to be cleaned.

Don’t fix what isn’t broken. The old saying reached a fever pitch in Aggieland after the Brazos County Commissioner Court voted to remove the Memorial Student Center, or MSC, as an early voting location in July. Since then, a variety of student groups have been vigorously campaigning for the commissioners to reverse their decision.

“This decision will be disenfranchising hundreds of faculty, staff and, of course, students and their ability to vote early and easily,” biology senior Kristina Samuel, president of the Texas A&M chapter of Mobilize. Organize. Vote. Empower., or MOVE, said during an interview for The Battalion.

The A&M Student Senate also passed a resolution on Sept. 7, requesting that Brazos County “reinstate the MSC as an early voting location in the next possible election, irrespective of other precinct locations.”

The motivation for moving the early voting location from the MSC to the College Station City Hall isn’t entirely clear. Commissioner Nancy Berry claimed after the decision in July she had “heard from a number of constituents before the decision to change [the early voting location] from the MSC, that they had difficulties and that the MSC was not easily accessible to them.”

County election administrator, Trudy Hancock, said the changes in early voting were implemented to make it easier for College Station residents to vote since “the normal residents of College Station find it hard to navigate campus,” during an interview for The Battalion.

While I understand some residents may find campus daunting, the university does offer free one-hour parking for voters at the Gene Stallings Blvd Garage right next to the MSC. If residents still wish to avoid going on campus, there are four other polling places in the Bryan-College Station area.

For years, the MSC has provided early voting opportunities — which makes sense given that A&M is the home to roughly 67,000 students and thousands of faculty and staff — many of whom pass through the MSC at least once a week. If the criteria for picking a voting location is the best accessibility for the most people, then the MSC is an obvious choice.

Moving the polling place to College Station City Hall makes it exponentially more difficult for college students to vote. Between going to class, homework, group projects and work, there isn’t much time left in the day to go to city hall, especially when considering that many students, especially freshmen, don’t have cars.

“Attempting to find a way to vote and then find a way to get to College Station City Hall is a huge ask,” engineering freshman Jackson Bailey said during the Sept. 20 commissioners court meeting.

Theoretically, it would be possible to walk 1.3 miles from the MSC to the city hall. However, when factoring in the 30-minute walk to city hall, the time standing in line to vote, and then the walk back, a question starts to emerge. What full-time student has that much free time? I hardly have time to finish my school assignments, much less spend possibly hours attempting to vote.

Early voting at the MSC allows students to cast their ballot between classes quickly. Its convenience encourages students to engage in the democratic process and sends a clear message: Being a responsible student doesn’t have to come at the cost of being an engaged citizen.

When considering whether early voting should be at city hall or the MSC, the deciding factor should be which one is the most convenient for the most voters. Senior marketing major Ishika Shah put it best in her speech to the commissioners court on Sept. 20.

“If the argument for city hall is that it makes voting easier for voters, that is a blatant disregard for the largest population of voters you serve in precinct 3 that includes students, faculty and the thousands of constituents that will be inconvenienced by the logistical nightmare of voting at city hall,” Shah said.

In no way is College Station City Hall adequate to support the entirety of the student body, faculty and the thousands of nearby residents. The first problem is that there isn’t enough parking. Gene Stallings Blvd Garage, next to the MSC, has about 1,400 spots, while the city hall has around 200. On top of that, it’s challenging merely to reach the city hall because of traffic on Texas Ave. and other logistical problems.

If anything, early voting at city hall will be more frustrating and inconvenient than before. The ideal solution would be to allow early voting at both locations, but if budgetary constraints restrict having two polling places in one precinct, then the MSC should be preferred.

To be fair to the commissioners, I’m sure their intentions in moving early voting to city hall were pure. It isn’t easy balancing the unique wants and needs of all constituents. Being a public official is often a thankless job despite the hard work put into it. However, this whole conundrum could have been avoided if they had taken the time to consult the student body beforehand.

Hopefully, the commissioners will learn from their mistakes and work to rectify them immediately.

As a constituency of roughly 80,000 people, including faculty and staff, we students deserve to be respected, not yanked around, especially regarding something as important as voting.

Ryan Lindner is a political science sophomore and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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About the Contributor
Ryan Lindner
Ryan Lindner, Head Opinion Editor
Ryan Lindner is a political science senior from Hutto, Texas, minoring in history. Ryan joined The Battalion as an opinion columnist in June 2022  until he became the Assistant Opinion Editor for the Spring 2023 semester. Since July 2023, Ryan has been The Battalion's Head Opinion Editor. Ryan has covered a range of topics, from local politics and campus culture to national issues, such as school choice and drug policy. After graduation, Ryan hopes to pursue a master's degree in international affairs.
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