By Kathryn Kelman/editor-in-chief
Students say this time they’re paying attention
With a record-breaking number of people registered to vote in the 2018 midterm elections, political engagement appears to be up around the country, including Tarrant County.
And part of that has to do with a down-to-the-wire U.S. Senate race in Texas.
The race between Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke is one of the top races to watch around the country. The race has made national headlines and continues to remain close, according to a number of polls.
SE student Mohamed Sadlalla said he registered to vote specifically to cast a ballot for O’Rourke.
“If he wins, it will help the Democrats become the Senate majority,” he said. “This coming election is significant.”
According to election records, Tarrant County has seen about a 2.4 percent growth in voter registration compared to previous elections. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is on trend with the rest of the state and the country.
Texas voter registration rolls reflected the national trend having grown to 15.6 million people, which was a 1.6 million jump from the 2014 midterm elections and a 400,000-person increase from March, all of which helped set a new record for the state.
South student Cedric Smith said he made sure he was registered to vote this year because he believes there are incumbents like Cruz, who need to be voted out.
But the competitive race between O’Rourke and Cruz isn’t what Smith believes has people paying more attention.
“I think people are more engaged this year because of the president,” Smith said. “He just stirs up so much controversy that people just be wanting to say something back. People want to stand up for themselves.”
TR and NW student Vanessa Campos is not registered to vote this fall because she isn’t 18 yet but said she has been paying more attention to the races than in the past.
“I feel like this year of elections has been a little bit more crazy, and now everyone is looking at what’s going on in their local areas,” Campos said.
The craziness is exactly why NE student Valdemar Rodriguez made sure he was registered to vote and will go to the ballot box for the first time this fall.
“I don’t like the government right now,” he said. “I want to make a change.”
Seeing posts about the midterms and key races in Texas on social media is what initially caught Rodriguez’s attention, and he said he’s done his best to tune in and read the news more often to stay up to date on the candidates and their positions.
Many of the hot-topic issues have also drawn more attention. SE student Rebecca Amarantes is paying special attention to candidates’ stances on health care and immigration this year.
“Health care has been an issue forever, and I feel like if everybody could vote and say what they want and what they need, maybe things would be better and easier,” Amarantes said.
Another reason people are paying more attention to this election cycle has to do with social media and the increase of articles and commentary in their feeds, said TR student De’Avia Granville.
“I think it’s helped get the younger generations engaged at much younger ages,” she said.
But not everyone registered to vote this year. Some forgot and some didn’t register because they don’t believe their vote matters while other students, like TR student Manuel Urbina, registered to vote because they believe their votes will make a difference.
“If I don’t vote, my voice will never be heard,” Urbina said.
NW government assistant professor Paul Benson isn’t convinced, though. In 2014, a record-low 36 percent of Americans eligible to vote cast a ballot, which was the lowest since 1942.
“I think we are seeing more engagement, but that won’t necessarily translate into more voters,” he said.
For more on what to know when going to vote go here.
For where and when to early vote on campus go here.
For more on Cruz vs. O’Rourke go here.