Student advocates unsuccessful in push for early voting location at St. Edward’s University

With the next presidential election a year away, casting a ballot may not be top of mind.

However, it is for Maggie DiSanza and Jackie Campos. The UT Austin students work at college campuses across Central Texas as part of the student advocacy group, Texas Rising.

"A lot of the work that Texas Rising does is engaging young voters to make sure that they can set up lifelong patterns of civic engagement," said DiSanza, campus organizer for Texas Rising. "A big part of that for us is making sure that we have accessible voting locations on campuses." 

They say early voting opportunities are key.

"Oftentimes students work, so often they take 15 to 18 hours of classes," said DiSanza. "They don't have time or transportation to necessarily get off campus and spend an hour going and voting elsewhere."

Early voting will be an option at UT Austin and Huston-Tillotson ahead of the March 2024 primary election, but while St. Edward’s University hosts a polling location on Election Day, efforts by Campos and DiSanza to get an early voting site on campus have been halted.


"I think the biggest thing is that on Election Day, lines get incredibly long. And in November 2022, St. Edward’s Election Day polling location had some of the longest lines in the county, with up to three hours, four hours of waiting time," said DiSanza. "So a lot of students, if they have only half an hour between classes, and then they go to work, they're not going to prioritize voting."

DiSanza and Campos said the county gave its stamp of approval but school leaders did not.

"(We were told) they didn't have the resources, and they were concerned about capacity in terms of where to place this on campus," said Campos, advocacy & field organizer for Texas Rising. "51% of the population here identifies as Latinx. There are also Huston-Tillotson students who live on campus between a deal with the two campuses. So these students are being disenfranchised."

With more than 2,700 undergrads at St. Edward’s, Campos and DiSanza wish the broader campus community would have been involved in the decision process. 

"Students are a major body here in the state of Texas," said Campos. "So we need to give them those resources to be able to vote." 

FOX 7 reached out to St. Edward’s University and has not heard back. 

FOX 7 also reached out to the Travis County Clerk for more information and was sent the following statement:

"Our office has been in contact with the university about using the campus for the March 2024 Primary election. We have been told by St. Edward’s that they have tried to find a viable space for the crowd that early voting brings, but that they have not been able to find the space for the length of time needed. 

Reserving a space can often be a challenge given that setup, early voting, election day, and tear-down of a site will occupy a facility for about 3.5 weeks. The time requirement is just one of many issues taken into consideration when selecting a site including public access, security of equipment, and ADA compliance. 

Polling locations for the March 2024 primary will be solidified by mid-December of this year. St. Edward's fits the criteria to be a polling location and our office works with each location to determine if there is availability for early voting and/or Election Day.  

We have had discussions with St. Edward’s in the past about using the campus as an early voting and Election Day site. They were able to offer their gym on November 7 for Election Day but were unable to accommodate the early voting period for that election. A representative for the university stated, "we will continue to provide resources to students to vote at the nearest [early voting] polling site." 

We recommend community stakeholders reach out to St. Edward’s about their ability to be a polling location during the early voting period, as well about what resources can be provided to help students access other nearby sites."