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A Texas lawmaker explains why she wants to ban polling places from college campuses


College campuses are convenient sites for polling places. But Central Texas state Rep. Carrie Isaac told KERA's Sam Baker that safety issues drove her to file her bill.

Why gave you the idea for your bill (H.B. 2390)?

In Texas, we have one of the longest early voting periods of any state in the nation: Two weeks of early voting.

I don't believe it's wise to be inviting people onto our campuses that would not otherwise have any business on our campuses. I think it opens up an avenue for nefarious actors.

And, you know, people ask me, will something happen? Well, yes. I mean, poll workers that have been threatened. At a lot of the polling locations, the emotions run high. I've seen fights over different reasons, different fights over where they're going to stand, fights over signage. And I've been yelled at, flipped off. It just seems like emotions run really high during campaign season.

But college campuses are typically open to anyone to come and go, and far more often than that without incident. So how would, barring a polling place, change that?

I'm a mom of a high school senior in public school. The other one is on a college campus. And I worry about my boys probably more now that they're older than I did when they were nine in their safety.

When instances happen, the first thing a law enforcement person is going to say is look for someone who doesn't belong. Look for someone who would normally be there. And that's what we're doing. We're just inviting those people that would not normally be on our campus onto our campuses.

If security is your concern, why not instead focus on trying to make college polling places more secure?

Well, I don't know if you've heard lately, but a lot of people have defunded the police and they're hurting right now for law enforcement. So, we're going to make all of these campuses have police officers all day, every day for two weeks?

Your response to voting rights advocates who accuse you of trying to disenfranchise young people at a time when they're beginning to get excited about voting, say freshmen voting for the first time, for instance?

Well, I generally have a lot more confidence in our young voters than they do. I know for sure that our young voters here in Texas can find a polling location. My son has done it. That's on campus. He has left campus to vote. I believe that these kids leave campus on a daily basis. They go to the grocery store. I believe they go and socialize off campus. So these people are telling me they can't leave campus to find a polling location in two weeks? I'm sorry, I don't buy it.

What then would be a suitable poised for voting?

Well, we have churches, we have grocery stores, we have fire stations, we have civic centers. We have libraries. I can go on and on.

But those places, some of them anyway, have been subjected to acts of violence.

You know what? Our students are not there. This is about school safety. We are going to focus this session on the emergency item of school safety.

A bill requiring colleges and universities with 8000 students to have at least one polling place has already reached a committee. While your measure hasn't done so, at least as of this conversation anyway. Do you worry that's a sign of what's to come or not to come in the legislature?

No, that's just part of the process of when the bill was filed and what number it is, and has nothing to do with whether it will pass or not.


Texas bill would end voting on college campuses. What does that mean for Tarrant?

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.