10:31 AM

UHCL student is first-time voter, believes young people can make a change

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people aged 18-24 have consistently voted at lower rates than all other age groups. Yet, although this group represents almost 31 million people, fewer than 40% voted in the 2016 election. This year, University of Houston-Clear Lake is serving for the first time as an official early voting and polling place for Harris County. Junior Gissel Viramontes will be among the first-time voters to cast her ballot.

"Due to the events of this year, it definitely gave me a push that I really need to vote," said Viramontes, a transfer student working toward her Bachelor of Science in Psychology. "I feel compelled to vote."

She said that it was very helpful that the polling place was on campus. "But I would have voted anyway," she said. "There are many people who don't have the privilege to vote. If you do have the privilege, you should vote. I have heard before that voting doesn't really matter, or that it doesn't count, but that is not true. I think everyone should try to vote."

To date, nearly 10 million voters of all ages have cast their ballot during early voting in Texas, according to the Texas Tribune. "It's important for our age group to vote," Viramontes said. "When we are young, we believe that we aren't able to make a change, but we can. This is a chance to make a big change."

She added that information shared on Instagram and other social media had been a huge help to understand the voting process. "I saw it on my Instagram feed — how to complete the mail-in ballots, all the voting instructions. It told me everything I needed to know, and that was very helpful to me as a first-time voter."

For this year's election, Coordinator of Organizations and Activities Dillon Nash said that UHCL covered all bases to make voting easy for students. "From becoming a polling location for both early voting and Election Day voting, to utilizing social media feeds, hosting voting-related events, and emailing students voting information, we believe our students have had an easy time with the voting process," he said.

With the early voting location in the Garden Room of the Bayou Building, and the Voting Day polling place in the Recreation and Wellness Center, Viramontes said voting is very easy. "You can be on your way to class and just stop by to vote," she said. "There is no reason not to vote now that we can do it on campus."

UHCL is committed to helping students become more engaged in the democratic process. Learn more about voting on UHCL's campus online.