By Joshua Rivera, Lifestyles Editor
On Tuesday, Oct. 9, voter registrars were at the Belton Starbucks on I-35 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. registering residents to vote in this year’s general elections. The voter registration drive was hosted at all nine of the freestanding Starbucks in Bell County. Among the volunteer registrars at the Belton location were Pat McGowan and Randy Broussard.
“I just was interested in getting involved because I think it’s really important for people to vote,” said McClendon. “It’s not partisan one way or another.”
Any resident of the county can volunteer to be a voter registrar, though it is an involved process which includes training and biennial registration.
“The county registrar of voters has a class every so often,” said McGowan. “Your training is good for two years. I just got trained in September, so it expires at the end of this year. But if you do it in January of next year, your registration will be good for two years as a registrar. But you have to take a class with the county first.”
“I was astounded by the people who haven’t registered to vote,” said Broussard. “Your voice is to vote, and your vote is your voice. Otherwise, you’re complicit. If you don’t vote, you’re complicit.”
The Tuesday rainstorms were detrimental to the efforts in Belton, however.
“We got seven this morning,” said Broussard. “We’re looking at all the Starbucks. In Killeen, they’ve already registered 150. The rain’s really killed us this afternoon. Oh, it’s a mess. We’re expecting more now that the skies are clear.”
By the end of the day, the coordinated efforts resulted in 563 new voters for all of Bell County. The voters who did sign up to register seemed to skew young.
“We’re seeing a number of Mary Hardin-Baylor students,” said Broussard. “A number of people think that even if they moved, their registration is still good. It isn’t. If they moved, they have to reregister. And today is the last day. Especially the students who are coming in. We had a couple a while ago, who were coming from Houston, San Antonio, and they said ‘but we’re registered!’ I said, ‘but not here.'”
The volunteers do not plan to rest on their laurels now that the last day of voter registration in Texas has passed. But the challenge remains to combat voter apathy and heated tensions in the current political climate.
“The next thing to do is to get out the vote,” said McGowan. “So now that you’re registered, you need to actually do it.”
“I’ve signed up to drive people to the polls,” said Broussard. “I’ve signed up to work the polls on Election Day. We’re block walking. We’re writing cards with the candidates. We’re busy.”
“You know, apathy is just the biggest thing ever,” said McGowan. “I hope the candidates can get their message out so people will debate the actual issues. That I would love to see the most: people debating the issues. We talked to other registrars this morning and were astounded by how many people didn’t want to register, period.”
“We had a number of people here today who said, ‘I don’t register, and I don’t vote,’” said Broussard. “They could lean nothing, but they’re just not interested in what’s going on. I guess it’s because their interior politics, what’s going on in their life, is more important than getting out and voting. They worry about the economy, their jobs, their kids, their schools. That’s their little niche. The challenge is divisiveness.”
The general election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Please visit www.bellcountytx.com for your respective polling location.