Long lines of students ready to cast their ballot stretched across the LBJ Student Center Tuesday, March 3, with some waiting for five hours before getting to vote for their chosen representatives.
According to voter check-in data from the Hays County Election Office, students were casting ballots for five hours past the 7 p.m. cutoff time, with the last voter check-in registered at 11:54 p.m.
Testimonials of students’ long wait times on social media prompted a response from MOVE Texas, a nonprofit organization that aims to register students on campus to vote, who provided pizza and water as an incentive to keep students waiting in line.
MOVE Texas is on the ground at Texas State ensuring young people stay in line to vote (two hours after polls were supposed to close.)
We’re buying pizzas, waters, & snacks to support young voters. Anything you give helps support the #YouthVote
— MOVE Texas (@MOVE_texas) March 4, 2020
Two days following Super Tuesday, Texas Civil Rights Project President Mimi Marziani addressed a letter to Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs to express “alarm over the widespread voter suppression our organization documented across the State of Texas during the March 3, 2020 Primary Elections,” later citing Texas State as one of the examples.
Rachel Stevens, dance junior, waited in line for over three hours and believes the county can do a better job to accommodate students attempting to vote.
“I think having a polling location on campus is a great accommodation for students, but I do think it should be improved upon,” Stevens said. “People need to realize how many students want to vote and put more workers, polling locations and more polling machines here on campus.”
According to Hays County Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson, the long lines were a symptom of a majority of students arriving close to the 7 p.m. closing time and the length of the Democratic ballot.
“Specific to (the LBJ Student Center polling location), we’ve looked at those numbers and we know that almost 40% of the voters that voted there on Election Day came after 5 p.m.,” Anderson said. “On top of that, the Democratic ballot was the longest ballot we had and most of the voters that voted there were Democrat.”
The polling location was subject to deliberation during the 2018 midterm elections, then only maintaining a “temporary” status and facilitating only three days of early voting, excluding Election Day.
Amid calls to extend the timeframe and reports of long lines, the Texas Civil Rights Project, coordinating the League of Women Voters of Hays County and MOVE Texas Action Fund, threatened legal action against the county, declaring the limited schedule unconstitutional. Hays County commissioners later voted to expand voting hours on campus, also adding Election Day hours.
In 2019, the commissioner court discussed the validity of the location when transitioning to election centers. The commissioners court, after a scathing public workshop from students concerned the location would be removed, voted to retain the location for early voting and Election Day use.
Anderson said students are better accommodated now since she has been in office, but she believes coordination with the university to educate students on how to prepare to vote could benefit wait times.
“Since I’ve been in this office, we now have a full-time early voting site on campus, and an Election Day site. Those are not things that we had in the past,” Anderson said. “Students learning how to prepare before they come to the polling location would be very helpful on Election Day, and it would help move things a little faster.”
Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra has submitted a formal request to have Anderson present before the Hays County Commissioners Court 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 24.
Becerra requested Anderson compile and present information assessing the polling locations, including the number of hours respective polling locations were open, the number of election workers assigned to the polling locations, total hours worked by the election workers at each location, number of voting machines at each location, how many voters used each location and the total number of voters in the county.
“Now that the election is over, but still fresh in our minds, I have reached out to (Anderson) for a report on the process with our new machines,” Becerra wrote in a Facebook post. “I want to learn what worked and keep that going and identify growth opportunities and make adjustments where needed.”