Tarrant County College sophomore Allan Barbosa is one of many students who registered to vote recently on campus. But he hasn’t thought much of the midterm elections because of his school workload.
He is an undecided voter but protecting the Second Amendment is a key issue for him, especially after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. He understands why schools are gun-free zones, but he said Uvalde showed him he couldn’t rely on the police to stop shooters. This issue was brought up during the governor’s debate when candidates were asked to explain their position on raising the age limit to buy an assault rifle.
“I don’t want that to be the option to go to,” he said. “But since we have guns around, I feel like everybody needs to protect themselves in any scenario.”
TCC sophomore Emma Maughan had a different reaction to the Uvalde shooting, particularly Gov. Greg Abbott’s response.
Maughan pointed to Abbott’s initial defense of the recently suspended Uvalde school police for its delayed response as the shooter murdered 19 students and two adults, making it the deadliest school shooting in Texas history. Abbott later stated that the police misled him about their response before his press conference.
“The way that he handled the Uvalde shooting was really disappointing,” Maughan said. “It was so tragic and close to home.”
In 2018, national turnout among voters 18 to 29 jumped to 53.4%. That 11.5 percentage point jump from 2014’s was the highest leap for any age group. This year, turnout among young voters is on track with 2018, according to the 2022 Harvard Youth Poll. Given the higher interest, the Fort Worth Report asked some young voters about the issues of most concern to them.
Issues such as reproductive rights and gun regulation could drive these young voters to the polls this November.
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Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 24, and lasts through Friday, Nov. 4. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Find your polling location here.You may read more stories about the upcoming election by heading to the Fort Worth Report’s Election Central.
TCC government professor Christopher Douglas has noticed more interest in the midterms among his students in class.
“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly,” Douglas said. “There definitely seems to be a lot more interest (in) this governor’s race. I think it has to do with recent court decisions that have been made, and legislation that has been passed has awakened younger voters.”
Douglas and other government faculty across TCC have been focusing on making sure students are informed about how to register to vote.
“I think the more they understand about the political process, the more they are likely to vote,” said Vanessa Steinkamp, who has been a deputy registrar for 10 years and ran for Colleyville City Council in 2019.
Tarleton State University sophomore Jared Rodriguez will travel back to Tarrant County to make sure that Abbott will be re-elected as governor.
“People want change and I get that,” he said. “But I think Abbott did a pretty good job.”
Rodriguez has witnessed debates on campus about abortion and if a fetus is considered a person. As a young conservative and Christian, he said, he believes that a fetus is a person and has the right to live. While social issues are his main reasons for voting, economic factors also play a role. He hopes there will be no increase in state taxes.
He said that registering to vote was a pretty simple process when he got his driver’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles and he is excited to vote for the first time.
“It’s pretty cool to vote. You get to vote for the person you think is right,” he said.
Texas Wesleyan senior Manuela Lee first became politically aware at 8 years old while watching former President Barack Obama speak at her hometown in Hood County during the 2008 presidential campaign.
In 2022, she is motivated to vote because of how far right she thinks the GOP moved during the Trump administration, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“What really drives me (is) that it’s we’re trying to get away from the extremist MAGA (Make America Great Again) following,” she said. “It not only plagues our state but so many others. All of these different issues that have been coming up on a daily basis that infringe on our rights, on our privacy, on our liberty.”
At the high school level, Lake Worth ISD, a Tarrant County school district, has been following a state law that requires public and private high schools to offer voter registration applications to eligible students twice an academic year.
While participation increased from previous years, from what the Texas Civil Rights Project could verify, only 38% of public high schools in Texas with at least 20 senior-year students were compliant with the law, according to their 2020 report.
Fort Worth ISD had high schools across the district hold voter registration events before last month’s National Voter Registration Day. In addition, trustee Anael Luebanos encouraged FWISD students to register to vote through a video posted earlier this year.
“If we have the opportunity for students to get involved (in local elections) to become responsible citizens, I’m happy to do that,” he said.
Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter.