News

Houston Students Celebrate Civic Engagement at Youth Voters Conference

With their eyes on November, local students met recently to discuss voter turnout and policy issues

Junior at Rice Meredith McCain discusses policies and voting with fellow Houston area students. McCain helped organize the inaugural Houston Youth Voters Conference, held at Rice University last weekend.
Junior at Rice University Meredith McCain discusses policies and voting with fellow Houston area students. McCain helped organize the inaugural Houston Youth Voters Conference, held at Rice University last weekend.

Only 28 percent of young adults say they will vote in midterm elections, according to a recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Atlantic. Some Houston students are set on changing that.

Students from five Houston universities met recently to discuss voting, policies and the upcoming midterm elections at the Houston Youth Voters Conference. The nonpartisan conference was organized by student leaders at five local schools: Rice University, University of Houston, University of Houston-Downtown, Texas Southern University and Lone Star Community College. It was held last weekend at Rice University.

Sonia Torres, a senior at Rice and one of the event’s organizers, said that when young people vote, they show that they matter.

“I matter in this conversation and you need to make room for me, and I think when youth don’t vote, they don’t make a place for us at the table,” Torres said. “I want people to turnout to vote so that we get the candidates to come here and they’re like ‘Oh, we have to have a forum at Rice, at Lone Star, at TSU, because they’re gonna vote, and they’re gonna vote us out of office if they are unhappy.’”

Journalist Antonio Arellano speaks to students about the importance of civic engagement. He was the keynote speaker at the Houston Youth Voters Conference.
Local activist Antonio Arellano speaks to students about the importance of civic engagement. He was the keynote speaker at the Houston Youth Voters Conference.

Attendees of the conference had the opportunity to register to vote, listen to speakers and discuss policies with their peers. The breakout policy discussion focused on five core areas: immigration, Harvey, science and health, gun rights and women’s and LGBTQ+ issues.  

Meredith McCain, a junior at Rice, helped to organize the conference. She said she hopes that young people will take their passion and frustration about these policy issues to the polls come November.

“Ever since the 2016 election, young people have felt a lot more mobilized and they have felt more empowered,” McCain said. “Now it’s just about turning that feeling of empowerment and that feeling of frustration into actual voting action.”

Jonah Baumgarten, a senior at the University of Houston, doesn’t have to be told twice to vote.

“I’ll never forget the first day I voted. It’s a very exciting time in a person’s life and I think it’s something every young person should look forward to,” he said.

Baumgarten studies political science and is a deputy field organizer for the Texas Freedom Network.

“I believe that young people bring a lot of needed altruism to the political process and I think that our voices are very important,” he said. “Young people are what drives communities forward.”

The deadline to register to vote in Texas is October 9. Election day is November 6.

Share