North Texas Daily

Denton City Council approves polling location on university as legislators file to ban campus voting

Denton City Council approves polling location on university as legislators file to ban campus voting

Denton City Council approves polling location on university as legislators file to ban campus voting
March 23
12:00 2023

The Denton City Council voted 6-0 to include a polling place on the university campus for early voting and the May 6 election as Texas lawmakers file legislation that would ban college polling locations.

The polling location, which will be located at The Denton Wesley Foundation, was not included in the initial approved list of polling places on Feb. 7. District Three council member Jesse Davis was criticized by former Place Six council member Paul Meltzer for approving the list without a polling spot on campus. The university resides in Davis’ district.

Davis is running against Meltzer for re-election.

“To be frank, I was outraged — mostly because it’s been such a long road of advocacy and persistence to make sure that UNT got a polling place,” Meltzer said. “Frankly, I couldn’t believe it when I saw that that just sort of was let to go by the wayside, and then I kind of put two and two together.”

A sign guiding voters is located in front of the Gateway Center on Oct. 25, 2023. Matt Iaia

Davis denied that he opposed a campus polling spot, saying that because most districts in Denton only had two polling locations, he felt it unfair to request a third. Davis also said low turnout on campus during the May elections influenced his decision.

“Now the UNT polling place gets a really good turnout in the November elections, especially in presidential years,” Davis said. “But for city elections, there’s typically less than 100. In fact, I don’t think we’ve ever had more than 100 people vote there on election day, so I didn’t feel like I was very well justified in telling my colleagues, ‘Hey, we need a polling place over here at UNT, but you guys don’t get any additional polling places.’”

In the Texas legislature, Rep. Carrie Isaac introduced a bill last month that would prohibit college campuses from hosting polling locations. Isaac says the bill aims to keep campuses safe from non-students coming onto campus during the two-week early voting period, according to an interview with KERA News.

With the initial absence of a polling location at the university on the February list and the recently filed bill by Isaac, some students are concerned Texas politicians are unaware of the potential consequences. 

“You know, to me, that’s going to affect more than people think,” said Paula Frade, Jolt president and Latino Culture, Economy and Policy junior. “This house bill really is not going to do any good that they’re thinking that it’s going to cause. If anything, it’s going to really just cause more issues.”

Jolt is a student organization that works on “Encouraging civic engagement among our Latinx students,” according to the group’s Instagram.

Some are worried that students’ lack of transportation will make voting significantly harder for them.

“The reality of the situation is that the public transportation in Denton is also not very good, and they’re going to have difficulties anyways,” history junior Caleb Valez said. “You may as well put a polling center at the University of North Texas that’s not just for students, anyone can go there.”

There are around “6,250” students living on campus this semester, housing director James Fairchild told the North Texas Daily in an email. There are a little over 2,000 parking permits registered specifically for residents on campus, Margarita Venegas, director of communications strategy in the UNT Division of Finance & Administration, told the Daily in an email. The other 4,200 resident students who do not have permits either park elsewhere or do not have vehicles themselves. 

“We have students who don’t have cars,” said Frade. “I still don’t have a car, but living in the dorms, everything I had to do was by foot.”

The bill proposed by Isaac is still in the early stages of the legislative process and has not yet been voted on by a committee. It is unclear how much support it might have in the legislature.

If passed, the bill would take effect Sept. 1, 2023, after the Denton local election on May 6.

“Just know that agreeing with this bill is showing the privilege that you have and not wanting to understand other students’ experiences, and that’s not fair,” Frade said. “There [are] students who could really benefit from having a polling location because at the end of the day, our vote does count, and if that person cannot make it to a polling location, it’s really just another way of suppression and oppression.”

Featured Illustration by Jazmine Garcia

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