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A group of Texas A&M University students attended Brazos County commissioner hearings for the past two months to discuss one agenda item — the county’s early-voting location.
Historically, Texas A&M hosted the polling location within its campus at the Memorial Student Center. This year, however, the county commissioners put the location up to a vote. With a simple majority, it was decided that the location would be moved to the newly constructed City Hall right in the center of College Station.
County Commissioner Nancy Berry, who oversees the precinct that includes Texas A&M, cited the convenient location of the City Hall as well as low voter turnout at the Texas A&M polling place as reasons for moving the early voting location. However, data obtained by The Texas Tribune showed that it was one of the county’s most popular early-voting sites in recent general elections.
When the Tribune first asked Berry about these figures, she said that what she meant by low voter turnout was that the amount of voters who showed up was much lower than what they expected given the concentration of people on the Texas A&M campus.
In interviews for this story, however, Berry stated that she mistakenly asked for the wrong election numbers.
The decision elicited backlash from students at the university. Among them, MOVE Texas A&M, a nonpartisan student organization that focuses on voter engagement, is fighting to get the location back on campus. The group has also raised over $10,000 to help fund shuttle buses that take students, faculty and staff to City Hall for all of early voting.
Berry has since stated that removing the on-campus early voting location “was a mistake.” The county is contributing $5,000 toward transportation to take student voters to City Hall through an interlocal agreement with Texas A&M.
The county is also planning to reinstate the on-campus polling place for 2023.
This is not a unique case, however. Across Texas, many universities lack on-campus polling sites. Coupled with state laws regarding voter ID and registration, advocate groups say these are barriers that make it harder for young Texans to vote.
Disclosure: MOVE Texas and Texas A&M University have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.