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Al Key

Registration drives enliven voting pool

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

Propositions spur push to get people to polls

Of the 3,900 people who have registered to vote in Denton County in the past six weeks, nearly 1,000 of those new voters registered in the city of Denton.

The count is more than twice the number who have registered in Lewisville and about three times the number of those who registered in Flower Mound and the Denton County precincts of Carrollton.

Voter registration drives that greeted students at University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University may have boosted the Denton numbers. But those numbers may not be the peak.

Residents have until Oct. 6 to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election, and local drives to register new voters show no sign of letting up.

The county elections office has seen an increase in applications for deputy registrars in recent weeks, according to Kerry Martin, Denton County deputy elections administrator. Deputy registrars are screened and trained to work with people who might need help completing their voter registration cards.

Deputy registrars worked the crowd Friday during a rally for state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor. She is racing against Republican Greg Abbott, Libertarian Kathie Glass and Green Party candidate Brandon Parmer.

According to UNT spokeswoman Kelley Reese, the Student Government Association has made voting and voter registration a priority in its work this year. The group also is working to get an early voting location on campus, she said.

Two weeks ago, the association worked with Alpha Phi Alpha during a back-to-school event at Kerr Hall to register about 300 students, Reese said. Nearly 600 of Denton’s registered voters from the past six weeks are age 25 or younger.

In addition to a full slate of statewide candidates, the city of Denton has seven propositions on the ballot, some of which will likely be of interest to university students.

Two citizen initiatives, one to ban hydraulic fracturing and another to legalize liquor sales citywide, are on the ballot. Four separate propositions, if approved, would provide for $98.2 million in capital improvement bonds, the majority of which will repair city streets. In addition, the city is asking voters to declare a small portion of the southwest side of North Lakes Park as surplus land. If voters agree, the city is expected to work with a local developer, which wants to buy the land in exchange for cash and another small parcel on the northeast side of the park.

TWU spokeswoman Amanda Simpson said she’s aware that groups have set up voter registration tables in the free speech areas on campus, but the university doesn’t track them or the number of voters they register.

Moreover, the backers of two community initiatives have their own campaigns to register people and get out the vote. One marathon-like and the other a last-minute dash, these campaigns could help lead to record local voter turnout in November.

Marcus Watson, a member of Denton First, the specific-purpose committee supporting the liquor sales initiative, said he applied to be a deputy registrar. His group registered about 10 new voters at an event at Dan’s Silverleaf, which Watson co-owns, but they haven’t started their campaign yet.

In the next few weeks, they plan to make some voter registration pushes, particularly through social media.

They have also been discussing ways to make sure people finish the ballot, he said. They are concerned that people may go into the voting booth to cast a straight ticket — Democratic, Republican, Libertarian or Green — and not vote on the local propositions.

“We’re probably going to have a campaign to do that — to finish the ballot,” Watson said.

Sandy Swan, a volunteer with Pass the Ban, a specific-purpose committee campaigning for the ban on fracking, said she’s lost count of how many people she’s helped register to vote. She has set up tables at TWU, the Denton Community Market, Golden Triangle Mall and various community events over the past several months.

The group recently trained more volunteers to start canvassing neighborhoods, according to Carol Soph, another volunteer with Pass the Ban. They plan another training event Tuesday.

Some of the volunteers are applying to be deputy registrars, but others are simply handing people voter registration cards, Soph said.

The group felt it was important that the newbies follow through with the registration on their own, since the registration cards even come postage-paid.

Many volunteers said they felt people might take more ownership of their civic duty if volunteers didn’t take care of every step in fulfilling that duty.

“They need to realize that voting is something they are doing for themselves, too,” Soph said.

Staff photographer Al Key contributed to this report.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.