BRYAN, Texas — About a dozen Texas A&M students stood before the Brazos County commissioners court Tuesday morning and voiced their concerns with moving early voting from the Memorial Student Center on campus.
“First of all, a lot of students don’t even know about it being taken away," said Kristina Samuel, a Texas A&M student and president of MOVE Texas' A&M chapter. "Our organization was tabling on campus this entire past week, and every single time we asked a person if they knew about it, none of them did.
So that’s even more concerning because we know students are going to plan to show up to vote early at the MSC and then not have it be there.”
Students stressed to the court that the Memorial Student Center is a crucial early voting location for Aggie students and staff.
Now, nothing was on the agenda this session regarding early voting. The students are responding to a commission decision made back on July 5; a vote of 4-1 which solidified College Station city hall as Precinct 3's new early voting spot.
"We were not made aware of that," said Ellis Howard, an A&M student and president of Students for a Democratic Society's A&M chapter. "It was only brought to our attention after the fact ... a lot of students weren’t on campus, and there are less campus workers on campus because there isn’t a lot of action going on there.”
The decision to change the early voting location was made by Pct. 3 commissioner Nancy Berry. Berry had to leave shortly after court, but did speak with KRHD over the phone.
She explained that her decision was made due to non-student and elderly voters concerned with difficulty in navigating campus. She also said that there is low voter turnout for the MSC.
“Well we’ve heard from some of the people who live in that precinct," said Steve Aldrich, commissioner for Pct. 1. "We’ve heard from students. We haven’t heard from faculty and staff in that precinct. We haven’t heard from regular voting citizens.”
Commissioner Aldrich was one of four commissioners who voted in favor of the new early voting locations, noting he wanted to support Berry in what she determines is best for the people of her district. The one commissioner who voted against the move to city hall was Russ Ford of Precinct 2.
"I do think the MSC was a real oversight on our part," he said. "... The culture [at Texas A&M] is that you walk. You park your car and you walk. And [with] what we’re basically asking them to do – I found out this morning that there’s no shuttle bus that runs to city hall!”
According to the county elections administrator, Trudy Hancock, the earliest this decision of the court could have been made was June, and the latest day would have been last Wednesday, Aug. 24.
Bruce Erratt, legal counsel for the county court, explained off-camera that a change back to the MSC for this cycle is "legal but not practical." He said every governmental entity involved in local elections, such as the school districts, would have to revise their order for ballots.
He did note ballots haven’t been printed yet.
These student groups plan to return to commissioners court on Tuesday, Sept. 13, bringing even more support with them.