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New Texas bill seeks to ban college polling locations

If polling locations are banned from college campuses, some students say they will struggle to vote.

AUSTIN, Texas — A new bill has been filed in Texas to prohibit polling sites at colleges and universities. Texas Rep. Carrie Isaac, a Republican from Hays County, south of Austin, introduced the bill this week. 

"Here in Texas, we have one of the longest early voting periods of any state in the nation," Isaac said. "We're open for polling for two weeks. Every day, all day for two weeks. I don't think it's wise that we're inviting people onto our campuses that wouldn't otherwise be on our campuses." 

Groups opposing the bill see it as a major setback.

"Students have already been kind of crying and fighting for their right to vote and access to equitable polling locations for four decades in Texas," said Katya Ehresman, Common Cause Texas' voting rights program manager.

If polling locations are banned from college campuses, some students say they will struggle to vote because they will have to travel further – something that's not easy for all.

"Personally, I don't have a car with me right now," said Harley Hensley, a University of Texas at Austin student.

Hensley said he wasn't able to vote last election because he wasn't fully educated on all the candidates. Also, he was focused on his busy college schedule. 

"I just felt like I had more important things that I needed to be doing, like my schoolwork," he said. 

If Hensley couldn't vote under current circumstances, he said those chances would be even lower during the next election if the bill passes. It could affect the push to bring out young voters.

"We're going to be the ones who are going to be making those kinds of policy decisions," Hensley said. "We're the ones learning for the future to be better. So, obviously, putting someone with our ideals or someone that we feel is going to make the world a better place, then I feel like it's very important for the majority of us to be voting."

Ehresman said every college student should be able to cast their ballot, especially in this growing and robust voting demographic. If this controversial bill passes, it will go into effect Sept. 1, 2023. However, Ehresman said her group won't go down without a fight and will help college students like it's done in the past. 

"We have been working with partners for multiple election cycles now to make sure that busses are taking students to polling locations," she said. "Students should also rest assured that there's a lot of organizations that are going to supplement the State if this new attempt and barrier gets passed."

Last year, The Texas Tribune reported on other hurdles college students have had to overcome. Many Texas universities don't have early voting locations on campus, and state laws regarding voter ID and registration have made it harder to turn out young voters.

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