On the day the two presidential candidates squared off in their first publicized debate, volunteers and others were busy at the UTB-TSC campus helping students register to vote.
Wednesday’s event was part of the Rock the Vote campaign sponsored by the Center for Civic Engagement, the Student Union and the League of Women voters. It was held on the Student Union lawn area at theUniversityofTexasatBrownsvilleandTexasSouthmostCollege.
About 50 students gathered late in the morning as student volunteers answered questions and guided fellow students through the registration process.
A free-speech zone allowed people to take turn talking about the importance of voting. As lunchtime approached, the crowd easily doubled.
Estella Martinez, with the Center for Civic Engagement, said she has 15 deputized student volunteers helping people register.
“We had a lot of first timers who don’t know anything (about the voting process),” Martinez said, adding that they have help register 500 voters in the last two weeks through 20 different campus locations.
The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 6 general election is Tuesday. Officials hope that because the nation will be charged with electing a new president that people will make the effort get registered.
Besides the presidential race, there are also several federal, state, county and school board races on the ballot as well.
Selene Rodriguez, 21, said she first voted in the city elections this year, but this will be her first time voting in a presidential election.
“Women have fought for the right to vote, so we should use it,” she said. “People should vote because if you don’t, you can’t complain.”
Cinthia Baleon, 18, added that locals need to vote so that the area receives the attention it deserves from those in government.
“I want people to vote,” Baleon said. “I’m tired of people saying (that) the Valley doesn’t matter. I’m tired of the talk.”
CameronCountyhas more than 176,000 registered voters, and Election Administrator Roger Ortiz expects that number to increase because the county’s Election and Voter Registration Office has seen a big increase in the number of voter registration applications coming in.
Ortiz attributes the increase in voter registration to bipartisan groups going out in the community and registering people to vote.
“There has been a push for people to get out and register from different organizations,” Ortiz said. “There are some groups that are really interested, and these are bipartisan groups, that are really interested in getting those that are not registered, registered and hopefully not only registered but encouraging them to go out and vote.”
Residents wanting to register to vote can either fill out a form at the county’s elections office or online at the Secretary of State’s Office website, where they can print out a blank application and take it to the county elections office. Applications are also available at the county tax offices and city offices. For more information, contact the Cameron County Elections Department at (956) 544-0809.