News Column

Texas Voter Drive in El Paso Gets a Push, Online Tools

Oct. 26, 2012

Diana Washington Valdez

El Paso voter Online Tools

Texans can stay on top of the Nov. 6 general election with many of the new online tools offered by the Texas secretary of state's special website for voting.

Secretary of State Esperanza "Hope" Andrade, who visited El Paso on Thursday, said her office is pulling out all the stops to help increase voter awareness and turnout, including incorporating social media to connect with voters.

"Our voter education campaign this year is 'Make Your Mark on Texas,' and the way to do this is through voting," said Andrade, the state's chief elections officer. "We are making it as easy as possible for voters to vote, by providing all the information they need."

Online at www.votetexas.gov, people can find out how to vote in Texas, whether they are registered to vote, early-voting dates, voting for the military, polling places, ballot items and more.

Voters can sign up for Facebook and Twitter messages, and for a free mobile app (SmartTXVoter), which provides access to the website in English and Spanish, and which can be used to send text reminders about important voting dates.

The website also features a countdown calendar and clock for Election Day.

"Smartphone use among Texans is growing, and so this is a way we can put the power of voting in their hands where they need it and when they need it," Andrade said.

The secretary of state's transition to social

media, such as Facebook and Twitter, began about two years ago.

On Thursday, Andrade attended an event at the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, met with the El Paso County Elections Department staff, and spoke at the "Our Lives Disabilities Conference" at the Camino Real Hotel about the rights of voters with disabilities.

She said that Texas voters can vote with their voter registration card or alternative valid identification, and that a picture ID is not required.

El Paso County Elections Administrator Javier Chacon said his meeting with Andrade was "informative and helpful. We know we can turn to her staff for assistance with any problems or questions we might have."

Andrade said she would like to see voter turnout in the general election reach higher levels.

"The state turnout for the 1992 general election was 72 percent, and it dropped to about 50 percent in 1994," she said. "The turnout increased to 59.5 percent in the 2008 general election. I believe voters are more likely to vote if they have all the information they need, and that's my mission as I travel across the state to promote our voter education campaign."

The high Texas turnout in 1992 occurred when Bill Clinton, a Democrat, ran for president and won in the three-way race against incumbent President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, and Texas businessman Ross Perot, who ran as an independent.

Leon Blevins, a government and political science professor at El Paso Community College, dresses up as Uncle Sam, passes out voter registration cards and encourages students to vote.

"Young people are the least likely to vote in elections, and I think the way to reach them is to help them see what is at stake for them today and in the future as a result of an election," Blevins said.

The Secretary of State's Office also interacts with federal election observers, who are routinely assigned to keep an eye on the election process in Texas and other states.

For the Nov. 6 election, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas named Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Moore to lead the efforts to oversee complaints of election fraud and abuses of voting rights.

"Every citizen may be able to vote without interference or discrimination and to have that vote protected against manipulation by fraud," U.S. Attorney Robert Pittman said. "The Department of Justice will act promptly and aggressively to protect the integrity of the election process."

Officials said federal laws protect against intimidating or bribing voters, buying and selling votes, altering voter tallies, stuffing ballot boxes and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input.

The El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights has launched an extensive campaign to get border residents to the polls in New Mexico and Texas.

Cristina Parker, spokeswoman for the network, said volunteers and organizers taking part in the "Tu Votas, Todos Ganamos" ("You vote, we all win") drive will use phone calls and personal visits to ask people to get out and vote.

"This campaign is the largest and most sophisticated nonpartisan, get-out-the-vote campaign in our region," said Jose Manuel Escobedo, the network's policy director. "We are reaching out to thousands of voters, and we are reaching them multiple times and in multiple ways."

Parker said the National Association of Latino Elected Officials has set up a bilingual hotline with voter information, which also can be used to report suspected voter law violations or voter intimidation incidents. The number is 888-VE-Y-VOTA or 888-839-8682.

Texas has 13.6 million registered voters, and about 3 million have Hispanic surnames.



Source: (c)2012 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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