Paschal High School senior Zoe Seymore is gearing up for her 18th birthday by registering to vote and the gift she is eying is a ballot.
This year’s midterm elections are set for Nov. 6. Well, that day also happens to be Seymore’s birthday. On that day, she plans to vote for the first time.
“People always say it’s important that young people get involved,” Seymore said Tuesday minutes after filling out a voter registration application offered at her school library. “I feel that with our generation it is important to know what is going on with your country.”
Seymore was among hundreds of Tarrant-area high school students who received civics lessons complete with voter registration information Tuesday — efforts that showcase how educators comply with Texas law.
Several area high schools made voter information campaigns this week to educate student about voting. The push aligned with Tuesday’s National Voter Registration Day and it also comes weeks after the Texas Civil Rights Project called out Texas high schools for not following the law.
“State law is clear that school districts are to provide voter registration information for our seniors becoming eligible to vote,” Fort Worth school board trustee Anael Luebanos told the Star-Telegram. “That’s just the minimum we can do. Our schools should foster civic engagement and show kids that their participation matters, it can make a big difference.”
As the Nov. 6 midterm elections draw closer, state and local election officials also made a voter registration information push Tuesday.
“I encourage all eligible Texans who have not already done so to register to vote by October 9th and prepare to exercise their most fundamental American right this November,” Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos said.
Voting advocates urged young people to recognize the importance of voting.
Lorraine C. Miller, a former clerk with the U.S. House of Representatives, told Dunbar students they owe it to themselves to become engaged in civics and voting.
“It’s your power in this country,” Miller said.
Following Texas law
Texas high schools are required to provide voter registration information to 18-year-old students on campuses.
Under Texas law, high school principals are able to serve as deputy voter registrars and hand out voter registration applications to students who will be 18 by Election Day. On several campuses, school librarians are also serving as registrars. Only registrars can collect applications.
Educators at several high schools told the Star-Telegram they are following the law with voter registration information campaigns held at least twice a year. Birdville, Southlake Carroll, Fort Worth and Keller schools were among districts that detailed their efforts to the Star-Telegram.
At Dunbar High School, there are about 50 seniors who will be 18 on Nov. 6, said Principal Oscar Adams. On Tuesday, Dunbar seniors participated in voter registration kickoff that included speakers who stressed the importance of voting.
“Our students need to be active citizens and their voice needs to be heard,” Adams said. “I think our job, as adults and educators, is to impart wisdom.”
At South Hills High School, there are 224 seniors in a class of 491 who will likely be eligible to vote in November, said Jennifer Kleiber, assistant principal and deputy voter registrar for the campus.
Last year, South Hills held an in-house push for voter registration giving eligible students and staff the opportunity to register to vote.
“This year, we decided to host a Pep Rally type assembly and open it up to parents and community members as well,” Kleiber said, adding that students and guests will be greeted by the South Hills High School Scorpion Band, cheerleaders, and the Silver Dancers dance team.
At Paschal High School, two librarians serve as deputy voter registrars and work to register seniors three times a year. This November, they estimate that 134 students will be 18 in time for the Nov. 6 election.
‘It can change the future’
Students at various schools said they were eager to get registered and learn more about elections.
“I have been wanting to vote forever,” said Tiony Cooper, a Dunbar senior who turns 18 in December. “My mom always votes.”
“I’ll vote,” promised Isom Williams, 18, another senior at Dunbar. Williams and his classmates said they want to make sure they hold leaders accountable and that they invest in their school with academic and athletic resources.
Michael Danh, 17, a senior at Dunbar, said he turns 18 on Dec. 31. He wants to register and vote in the next round of elections.
Asked why, Danh responded: “Because it can change the future.”
At Paschal, seniors Janie Pritchett and Luke Nettle said they plan to vote for the first time in November.
“I’m excited to vote,” Pritchett said. “I don’t have a political lean, but I’m starting to do more research because I’m getting older and it is a responsibility to vote.”
Election officials also were working at court buildings throughout Tarrant County on Tuesday, trying to register as many local voters as possible.
Alicia Stanton was one of those who headed to a registration table at the Southwest Subcourthouse to pick up a form.
She said she and her husband moved to Fort Worth from Houston earlier this year and need to register so they can vote in November.
As for Tuesday’s voter registration drive, “it’s convenient,” she said.
Jennifer Romero, an elections clerk for Tarrant County, said she and others were trying to register as many local voters as possible.
Even if someone isn’t completely sure they want to vote in November, it doesn’t hurt to get registered.
“What if, during an election season, something catches their eye and they want to vote,” Romero asked. “If it’s past the registration date, and they didn’t register, then they can’t.”
Whether 18 or 80, if you weren’t able to register to vote Tuesday, don’t worry.
You still have until Oct. 9.
Voter registration applications are available online; at the Tarrant County Elections Administration, 2700 Premier St.; and at subcourthouses, city halls, libraries and post offices. They must be dropped off at the election office or clearly postmarked by Oct. 9.
If you don’t know whether you’re registered to vote, check your status online at the Texas Secretary of State’s website, votetexas.gov, or by calling the local elections office at 817-831-8683.
If you are going to be out of town during early voting and on Election Day — or if you are at least 65 or disabled — you have until Oct. 26 to ask for a mail-in ballot. Applications for mail-in ballots may be downloaded from the Texas Secretary of State’s website and returned to county election officials by fax, mail or email.
To register to vote in Texas, you must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 by Election Day, mentally sound and not a convicted felon unless the sentence has been completed, including parole or probation. For new residents in the state, there’s no requirement stipulating how long you must live here before registering to vote.
For more information, local voters may call the Tarrant County Elections Office at 817-831-8683. Voters statewide may call the Secretary of State’s Office at 1-800-252-8683.
Sample ballots are available online at the Tarrant County Election website.
Staff writer Hanaa’ Tameez contribued to this report.