The week before the Texas voter registration deadline, two local high schools faced off in a pair of Voter Registration Pep Rallies to celebrate and encourage new young voters. The first events of this kind – a quirky idea of District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan – the pep rallies were pulled together in a week via a collaboration between the League of Women Voters, District 6 staff, and the PTAs and administrations of both Westwood and McNeil High Schools. Electeds and election officials from both Travis and Williamson Counties were invited to participate, with County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir of Travis and Commissioner Terry Cook of Williamson able to attend.
The results were a nonpartisan call to get out the vote, but District 6 high school seniors were also there to learn important dates, deadlines, and rules – old and new – ramping up to Election Day. The seniors packed their respective venues (Westwood in the “small gym” and McNeil in the cafeteria). Eligible, but not yet registered students donning “FUTURE VOTER” and “I’M SO GONNA VOTE” stickers, stayed to complete their paperwork and ask questions of the many experts in attendance. Some stuck around to talk to local media. The League of Women Voters even brought along a sample Travis County voter machine for the students to try out.
Young people across the country are preparing to register and vote for the first time in their lives. It’s a critical juncture as they emerge into voting age during a time of deep political cynicism. In his rousing speeches to each student group, CM Flannigan invited the seniors to take to social media with special event-focused hashtags #McNeilVotes, #WestwoodVotes, and #D6Votes to compete with each other to see which high school would garner the most “votes.” The to-be-determined winners will be recognized by Austin City Council.
According to an article in the Austin American-Statesman, “Despite being one of the few states in the nation to have a law requiring high schools to hand out voter registration forms.” … “No private high schools and just 14 percent of public high schools in Texas requested voter registration forms from the secretary of state’s office in 2016.”
District 6 aimed to not only comply with this law, but to kick it up a notch by encouraging young voter turn-out in Texas.