East Texas students, party leaders discuss college vote ahead of Election Day

College students are often easily energized, but don’t always vote
College students represent an often energized part of the electorate, but one that doesn’t always turn out.
Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 8:35 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 7, 2022 at 11:35 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Emma Babb’s fascination with politics started when she was a high school student.

“I got involved when I was in high school and started attending my high school young Republicans at Grace Community,” Babb said. “Got involved there and kind of started paying attention to politics.”

Babb is now president of the UT Tyler College Republicans and the Young Republicans of Smith County.

“They support everything I do when it comes to law enforcement. I’m very pro-gun, I’m pro-life. They’re very welcoming. They’re not like ‘oh, you don’t agree with us. You can’t be in our group.’”

On the other side of the political aisle is Democrat Lilah LaCroix, a student a Tyler Junior College and a local activist.

“Over the years, I’ve seen Democracy is demolishing,” she said. “And I’m a true believer in Democracy. And I think it’s about us, not the person.”

And while both college students may disagree on the issues and candidates, they both agree on the importance of voting.

“College campuses are always interesting at the time of our elections,” said Dr. Mark Owens, a political science professor at UT Tyler. “I mean some students really are into it when they think about it being the first chance to vote or maybe a second chance to vote.”

But while college students are an easily inspired part of the electorate, they don’t always show up at the polls.

In early voting, just 9% of Texas voters ages 18 to 29 cast their ballot, according to newly released data. It’s the lowest turnout compared to the three other age groups.

“There’s nothing more important than involving the youth,” said Smith County Democratic Chair Hector Garza, who expressed his desire to see more polling locations on college campuses.

“I still don’t see why we don’t have voting locations at our universities,” he said mentioning UT Tyler and TJC. “Because this is where all the youth comes in and it automatically almost forces them to be involved because it’s right there at their door.”

When asked about young voters, Smith County Republican Chair David Stein said,” I think that’s an area where we still have room for improvement. But you find as people age - there’s an old joke out there that says the difference between a liberal and a conservative is a conservative is a liberal except now has a teenage daughter. And so those things change.”

Regardless of party, college voters are seen by candidates and elected officials as an important part of the electorate.

“Some people try to discourage you from voting because they say that it doesn’t matter,” said LaCroix. “But it really does, because if we all vote, we’ll get what we want.”

“Yes, you can do the protests, the rallies, and stuff,” Babb said. “But you won’t actually make a change unless you do at the ballot box.”