Vote 2018: Public forum underlines the significance of voter turnout

Vote 2018: Public forum underlines the significance of voter turnout

Vote 2018: Public forum underlines the significance of voter turnout
September 21
20:38 2018

About 40 residents gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center Thursday for the Vote 2018 Town Hall. The forum featured an expert panel and keynote speakers who answered questions about voter ID laws, voter suppression, election protection and more.

Sponsors included the League of Women Voters of Denton, the Denton County NAACP and Denton VOTE Group, who held an onside voter’s registration drive. The event was a result of the partnership between the St. James A.M.E Church and the Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Board.

“Our democracy thrives when people are prepared and have the right information to exercise fully their civic duty,” said Pastor Mason Rice Jr. of Saint James A.M.E Church in a press release. “We are committed to moral and social issues including voting rights, and these can be best accomplished through education. We need to vote and to stay informed about leaders who will make laws and policy that affect our faith, our families and our freedom.”

Event coordinator and spokeswoman Mary Taylor said the event was a response to multiple changes to voter laws, specifically a 2011 voter ID law recently under fire for allegedly discriminating against minority voters. Taylor said the event’s purpose was to prepare people to go the polls on Nov. 6 and cast their vote.

“Once you’re registered, you need to do the research,” Taylor said. “Because you need to understand whether the [candidates] reflect your values.”

Emily Meisner, President of the Denton VOTE Group, informing attendees on “Voting in Texas.” Cindy Ngo

After stressing the importance of getting registered, Taylor said young voters must show up to the polls for their voice to count. Taylor said that after electing officials, citizens have a civic duty to hold their representatives in office accountable.

“There is absolutely no excuse,” Taylor said in response to question about nonvoters. “There’s early voting. There’s voting by mail. If you need a ride, there’s a rideshare program.”

This rideshare is the product of collaboration between the Denton VOTE group and the League of Women Voters.

Emily Meisner, deputy voter register and administrator of the Denton group said the two groups are working together to provide voter education as well.

Meisner served as a speaker, saying college students often don’t vote when away at school due to confusion about their voting location. Students are not likely to travel home during the week in order to cast their vote, yet do not register in their university district either.

College students can choose where to vote,” Meisner said. “This is such a big misconception among college students.”

Justin Kwasa, national coordinator for the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and event speaker, said a top issue facing Texas voters is redistricting. Redistricting is the process of drawing electoral district lines for governmental purposes.

A common and current concern regarding redistricting is gerrymandering, or the abuse of such line-drawing to favor a particular party.

“Communities that have been disenfranchised are not represented because of redistricting,” Kwasa said before the event. “This lack of representation is not consistent with a democracy.”

State senator and keynote speaker Royce West (D-Dallas) said apathy and lack of participation are two major obstacles for voters.

“Why vote?” West asked. “To make certain we have a voice in our government. We can no longer be apathetic…use the tools you have at your disposal.”

The Wesley Foundation on UNT campus will be a polling place on Election Day, Nov. 6. The location is available for voters in precincts 4045 and 4004. To determine voter registration status, find polling locations and answer other questions, visit https://www.votedenton.com.

Featured Image: Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center hosted Vote 2018 Town Hall on Thursday. The event featured a panel of guest speakers and informed members of information to help voters. Cindy Ngo

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Ally Zarate

Ally Zarate

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