Like plenty of UT students, I moved apartments this summer. While I didn’t move very far — according to Google Earth, my new apartment is less than 1000 feet from my old one — I was surprised and a little annoyed to find myself in a new Congressional district. At first I thought about ignoring the change and continuing to vote from my old address, but upon learning that the technical term for this would be “felony voter fraud,” I reconsidered.
After I went through the proper procedure to change my address it occurred to me that, if I hadn’t thought to check, I might have failed to notice I had moved into a new district. After all, one might reasonably assume that when you remain in the same city, the same neighborhood, the same 1000-foot radius, you also remain in the same political subdivision. Alas, one would be mistaken.
To ensure that they don’t make the same mistake I narrowly avoided, students who have moved recently should confirm that they’re in the same district as before — and if they’re not, they should register to vote from their new address before the Oct. 9 deadline.
“A lot of students don’t realize that even if they moved within UT or moved within Austin they still have to re-register,” said Maya Patel, a chemistry junior and TX Votes vice president. “So it’s a really common problem.”
The map of political representation in downtown Austin is tangled and baffling. Generally speaking, UT students are split into three different districts: If you live on campus or in North Campus, you’re in the 25th district, which descends south from near Fort Worth before jutting into the Austin metro area from the west. If you live in West Campus, you’re in the 21st district, which fans out west past Fredericksburg and also includes a chunk of San Antonio. Finally, if you live in Riverside, you’re either in the 21st district or the 35th district, which consists of downtown San Antonio, southeast Austin and a narrow bridge connecting them.
In addition to creating the ridiculous scenario where students living in the dorms and people living on the outskirts of Fort Worth are represented by the same person in Congress, this map also makes it very easy to stumble into a new district when you move. If that’s happened to you, you need to change your registered address in order to vote in the right election.
So long as you moved within Travis County, you can do that online. If you moved from a different county, you have to re-register by filling out a new application and mailing it in. These applications are available at the Perry-Castañeda Library, TX Votes and other organizations like it.
Yes, it’s unfair that representatives get to choose their own constituencies under the current system. No, there’s not much we can do about that — other than vote. Young people could have a tremendous impact on the upcoming midterm elections, but these kinds of complications can depress voter turnout — and Texas already has historically low turnout rates. Let’s change that in 2018.
Groves is a philosophy senior from Dallas.