COLLEGE STATION, Texas — As October's early voting days for midterm elections inch closer, Texas A&M's Memorial Student Center still has not been reinstated as an early voting location.
Both the county and students are efforting ways to fund buses that will transport students from campus to the polls at College Station city hall.
Aggie students from several on-campus organizations are using GoFundMe to crowdfund at least one Aggie Spirit bus that will take student voters to city hall for early voting. They’ll be putting their deposit down on Monday to secure the bus rental, according to students from MOVE Texas.
The schedule for that bus may be limited.
"I believe it’s almost every day of early voting, but it’s... not the entire period of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.," said Aggie sophomore Emily Lightfoot, vice president of MOVE Texas' A&M chapter. "Each day has a different schedule and we’re just trying to pinpoint when we think students will be most active in getting to the polls.”
A&M students’ fight for easy poll access has been a long one. Ever since the Brazos County commissioners court removed early voting from campus and relocated it to city hall, Aggie students from organizations such as MOVE Texas have been advocating tirelessly at the commissioner's court for a change.
“I tried to drive to city hall from campus, and the logistics of getting there from my on-campus parking spot requires at least two hours round trip," A&M student Ishika Shah had said at the podium on Sept. 20's regular commissioners court meeting. "And that doesn’t even count the time it takes for me to wait at the polls.”
Commissioner Nancy Berry of Precinct 3, which covers the Texas A&M campus, was the official who proposed the relocation of early voting to off-campus back in July.
Berry has heard the voices of the students and faculty, as they've spoken out during court since August.
“I said it was a mistake," Berry told KRHD, recalling her words to the public at a recent regular meeting. "And I apologized. And we’re going to do everything we can to get the students to the polls.”
Now, Berry said the commissioners court will vote in this coming Tuesday’s session to work jointly with the university to arrange buses that will take students to city hall during early voting days.
If passed, this venture would be fulfilled through the county’s general funds, Berry said. She noted a quorum of just three will be enough to vote on the matter.
When asked about the importance of students voting, Berry commented:
“Absolutely. It’s not the students – I want every voter to vote.”
It’s still early in the planning process for these buses, for both students and the county, so details are not yet available on how many buses will be in use. But in the opinion of the students who lost their years-old polling station on campus, it’s the least the county can do.
“We’re having to do all this extra work on our end, just to ask the bare minimum," said Lightfoot. "And in my opinion, I mean... we are like, the third largest university in the United States. There is no excuse for us to not be able to early vote on campus.”
Lightfoot explained that, depending on how the commissioners court votes on Tuesday, the student organizations behind this recent effort (comprised of the following groups: MOVE Texas, Texas Rising, CMSA, FREE Aggies, ALPHA, Brazos SDS, League of Women Voters of Brazos Valley, and Young Dems of Brazos Valley) may need to adjust the route of the bus that they will be procuring through crowdfunding.
MOVE Texas students noted that organizations such as the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Brazos Valley will be offering free ridesharing for voters to polling locations. Texas A&M College Republicans told KRHD that they are arranging carpooling for their own members to polling locations.
To donate towards the transportation GoFundMe, visit the following link: