MOVE Texas get­ting new vot­ers onto polls

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Metro - GILBERT GARCIA ggar­cia@ex­ @gil­gamesh470

Ev­ery elec­tion post­mortem in this coun­try in­cludes the oblig­a­tory hand-wring­ing over why young peo­ple don’t vote.

Back in 2001, when po­lit­i­cal ob­servers tried to fig­ure out why only 40 per­cent of 18- to 29-year-olds showed up for the ul­tra-com­pet­i­tive 2000 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Ryan Friedrichs, then the in­terim di­rec­tor of a coali­tion called Youth Vote 2000, came up with an apt di­ag­no­sis. Friedrichs called youth vot­ing the vic­tim of a “cy­cle of ne­glect.”

This was his point: Young peo­ple don’t vote, so can­di­dates ig­nore their con­cerns. Then, be­cause can­di­dates ig­nore those con­cerns, young peo­ple feel even less in­clined to vote.

It’s a cy­cle that H. Drew Gal­loway, 36, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of MOVE Texas, is de­vot­ing his life to break­ing. Gal­loway, a for­mer som­me­lier who was raised on a Ge­or­gia farm, leads a non­par­ti­san army of civics war­riors de­ter­mined to close the ap­a­thy gap in the Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

These are heady days for Gal­loway.

Last year, his or­ga­ni­za­tion helped San An­to­nio triple its mu­nic­i­pal-elec­tion youth par­tic­i­pa­tion (from 3.3 per­cent to 9.8 per­cent). This year, MOVE Texas has regis­tered 29,000 new vot­ers.

In the two years since Gal­loway took over lead­er­ship of the non­profit, it has grown from two em­ploy­ees, two fel­lows and two in- terns to 14 em­ploy­ees, 23 fel­lows and 31 in­terns. Along the way, it ex­panded its voter out­reach be­yond San An­to­nio, prompt­ing a name change ear­lier this year from MOVE San An­to­nio.

The past week has been par­tic­u­larly dra­matic. As Texas vot­ers went to the polls for the 2018 midterms, MOVE Texas took cen­ter stage in a vot­ing-rights face­off in Hays County.

Hays County com­mis­sion­ers had lim­ited the use of an early vot­ing site on the Texas State Univer­sity cam­pus to only three days. On Thurs­day, lawyers for the Texas Civil Rights Project — act­ing on be­half of MOVE Texas, the League of Women Vot­ers of Hays County and two stu­dents — sent a let­ter to the com­mis­sion­ers, urg­ing them to re­open the polling place. The let­ter car­ried the threat of a law­suit if com­mis­sion­ers didn’t act by the end of the week.

The next day, the com­mis­sion agreed to re­in­state the univer­sity polling place for two days of early vot­ing next week as well as Elec­tion Day, Nov. 6.

The con­tro­versy sig­naled the surge in vot­ing in­ter­est among young Tex­ans dur­ing this elec­tion cy­cle, with turnout across the state far ex­ceed­ing re­cent midterm lev­els.

“We are cer­tainly really ex­cited about what’s hap­pen­ing in the field,” Gal­loway said. “In pre­vi­ous elec­tion cy­cles, we haven’t seen this level of en­ergy. We haven’t seen peo­ple talk­ing about pol­i­tics on col­lege cam­puses. So I think this has been a buildup in San An­to­nio over mul­ti­ple years and cy­cles worth of work.”

Ex­pand­ing the elec­torate is a slow grind, an end­less ex­ca­va­tion project that de­mands preter­nat­u­ral per­sis­tence.

Gal­loway’s group makes it a point to turn up at com­mu­nity events, col­lege cam­puses, high schools, rock and hip-hop con­certs and neigh­bor­hoods with high con­cen­tra­tions of young peo­ple. In March, they set up a ta­ble at the Pod Save Amer­ica show at the Ma­jes­tic Theatre and regis­tered 40 peo­ple in the span of a cou­ple of hours.

Once they’ve ex­hausted all the pos­si­bil­i­ties for reach­ing young vot­ers, they’ll go door-to-door in ar­eas where reg­is­tra­tion and vot­ing are low.

“Ev­ery sin­gle voter reg­is­tra­tion is a con­ver­sa­tion,” Gal­loway said. “It could be a two-minute con­ver­sa­tion be­cause the stu­dent is in a hurry or we knocked on the door in the mid­dle of din­ner or we really have had 20-minute con­ver­sa­tions.”

MOVE Texas is ef­fec­tive be­cause it’s rooted in an un­der­stand­ing of how mil­len­ni­als think. As Gal­loway likes to point out, young peo­ple don’t like to be told what to do and they have zero tol­er­ance for in­au­then­tic­ity. So MOVE Texas bases its model on peer-to-peer dia­logue that en­cour­ages young peo­ple to vote, but doesn’t tell them how to vote.

“We (mil­len­ni­als) do care about vot­ing,” Gal­loway said. “But the dif­fer­ence, I think, this year is that there’s politi­cians that are speak­ing to young-peo­ple is­sues. They’re talk­ing about stu­dent-loan debt, they’re talk­ing about health care, they’re talk­ing about af­ford­able hous­ing, they’re talk­ing about pub­lic trans­porta­tion.

“Those are all is­sues that perk the ears of young peo­ple.”

TEC fines

Over the past two years, we’ve re­ported on Pro­bate Court Judge Kelly Cross’ habit of miss­ing dead­lines for fil­ing cam­paign fi­nance re­ports.

On Oct. 10, the Texas Ethics Com­mis­sion im­posed a $500 fine on Cross for two late re­ports, in­clud­ing one that was due eight days be­fore the March 6 Texas pri­mary and that Cross didn’t file un­til July 5.

The TEC also re­cently slapped a $500 fine on Tylden Sha­ef­fer, the GOP can­di­date for Bexar County dis­trict at­tor­ney. The com­mis­sion found that Sha­ef­fer was one day late in fil­ing his July 2018 semi­an­nual re­port and did not pro­vide com­plete ad­dress in­for­ma­tion for his pay­ees and donors.

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