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Andrade launches statewide voter education initiative
 
By Steve Taylor, Rio Grande Guardian
April 5, 2012
 
 
 
 
 
La Grulla High School students Wendy Cantu and Jasmin Morales will be eligible to vote for the first time in the 2012 elections. They say they will exercise that right in order to secure more funding for education and healthcare for South Texas and because they want to see immigration reform.
 
 
 
 
 
 
LA GRULLA, Texas, April 5 - Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade has launched a new statewide voter education program titled “Make Your Mark on Texas.”

At a news conference in Austin on Wednesday, Andrade said the program will answer questions about voting and the voting process for Texans in the 2012 election cycle as well as debunk some myths about voting in Texas elections.

“Voting is every Texan’s opportunity to make their mark on Texas’ future,” Andrade said. “The voting process should be simple and easy to understand. This program is about busting perpetuated myths and separating fact from fiction when it comes to the voting process.”

Andrade said the voter education program will include updates to VoteTexas.gov website with new, dynamic features for voters, a new smart phone application, and the Vote Texas App. She said Texans will also start seeing television, print and online advertising designed to raise awareness of voter resources such as VoteTexas.gov. And, as usual during an election season, Andrade will embark on a statewide tour, visiting communities around Texas before the Primary Election on May 29 and in the Fall before the November 6 General Election.

Andrade said that at many local community events throughout the year, Texans will be able to step into a photo booth to have their photos taken and woven into the largest digital Texas flag in the world. The flag will be continually updated and displayed at VoteTexas.gov and on the program’s Facebook page and highlight voters who plan to “Make Your Mark on Texas” by voting this year.

“I urge Texans to visit VoteTexas.gov to find out if they’re registered to vote, and if not, find out how to register. The site will also be regularly updated with new information on the 2012 election cycle. This is every Texan’s opportunity to make their mark on Texas,” Andrade said.

Andrade said that at VoteTexas.gov, Texans can learn everything from how to register to vote, track important deadlines during every election cycle, and refresh their memory regarding what documentation is necessary when going to vote. She said the site also includes important functions allowing Texans to find out if they are already registered to vote, where to find their polling place and instructions on how to cast a ballot. 

For more information on voter registration or elections in Texas, please visit www.votetexas.gov.

For more information on the Office of the Texas Secretary of State, please visit www.sos.state.tx.us.

Andrade made her comments on the same day that the Rio Grande Valley’s top voter registration effort was focusing on Starr County. The Advocacy Alliance Center of Texas is a non-partisan, non-profit group. It has set itself an incredibly high goal, to get a 65 percent turnout in the Rio Grande Valley this year. Historically, the Valley has lagged well below the statewide average of 60 percent. Indeed, in non-presidential year elections turnout in the Valley often fails to get above 20 percent.

Eliza Alvarado, president of AACT, spoke at two high schools in Starr County on Wednesday, La Grulla and Rio Grande City. She encouraged seniors to sign an AACT pledge card and, if they are 18, to vote in the primary and general elections.

“We have had really good reaction from the students. I commend the staff here at La Grulla because the teachers talked to them a week ago about mock elections and the importance of voting. So, by the time we got here the students were ready to fill out their cards,” Alvarado said.

Jasmin Morales, a student at La Grulla, said she would be voting for the first time this year. “I want to vote to help get immigration reform. There are a lot of immigrants here and I think they should have an equal chance of becoming a citizen,” Morales said. Her colleague Wendy Cantu said she too would be voting for the first time. “We understand the importance of voting. It means we count when it comes to more money for education and health care,” Cantu said.

Alvarado has made presentations to about 30 schools across the Valley. Asked how the AACT campaign was going, Alvarado said: “We are now in high gear. We are hoping the May 29 primary will have a record turnout. We are working really hard with our partners to make sure people are registered to vote. However, we could always do with more help. So, if anyone wants to partner with us, we would like to hear from them.”

AACT’s partner in Starr County is the Starr County Industrial Foundation. Its voter mobilization effort with AACT took place over two days.

On Tuesday, voters were registered at the South Texas College Starr County Campus in Rio Grande City. Among the local leaders to show up and lend their support were U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, state Rep. Ryan Guillen, and Rio Grande City Mayor Ruben Villarreal. Guillen said turnout in Starr County can fluctuate wildly, from 12,000 voters to 3,600 voters.

On Wednesday, the focus was on La Grulla and Rio Grande City high schools. Starr County Industrial Foundation President Rose Benavidez said a voter registration drive will be held at Roma High School after the Easter holidays.

“We know we can do better with our voter turnout and we have to. A lot of the federal and state revenue and attention communities get depends on voter engagement. It is based on our ability to be heard. We get heard by voting,” Benavidez said.

Benavidez paid tribute to AACT and her board of directors for giving the green light to the voter mobilization initiative. “Our aim is to get more than 500 more people registered to vote over the course of these two days and we are well on track,” she said.
 
 
 
   
   
 
 
 
 
 
     

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