Current seniors eager to vote in gubernatorial race

Young voters more like to vote against incumbent governor because they disagree with his recent policies


David Winter

League of Women Voters volunteer Stephanie Land waits to assist Class of 2021 senior Jonah Brown as he registers to vote. Brown said that he planned to vote because he felt a sense of urgency about the 2020 election. “I think it is always important to vote because this is a presidential election and no matter what comes out of the election, it is important to exercise your right to vote and not just sit back thinking someone else will do it for you,” Brown said.

Evie Barnard and Amaya Collier

On Jan. 4, Texas governor Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over requirements that members of the National Guard must obtain a COVID-19 vaccination.

According to reporting done by CNN, roughly 40% of national guard members in Texas refuse to obtain a vaccine.

In response to the vaccine mandate, Gov. Abbott issued Executive Order GA-39 which states: “[n]o governmental entity can compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.¨

My order has been in effect for months now. President Biden has muddied the waters with a vaccine mandate from the U.S. Department of Defense.

— Gov. Greg Abbott

Abbott sent a letter to U.S. secretary of defense Lloyd Austin reaffirming the fact that he (Abbott) would not require his National Guard members to get vaccinated.

“As the commander-in-chief of Texas’s militia, I have issued a straightforward order to every member of the Texas National Guard within my chain of command: Do not punish any guardsman for choosing not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” Abbott said in the letter, ¨Although my order has been in effect for months now, President Biden has muddied the waters with a vaccine mandate from the U.S. Department of Defense.¨

The ´Title 10 of the U.S. code´ allows the president to call members of the National Guard into service during times of emergency. It also states that ¨When Army National Guard units are not under federal control, the governor is the commander-in-chief of his or her respective state.” 

Since members of the Texas National Guard are not currently in service, Gov. Abbott is acting as the commander-in-chief, meaning that legally, he is in command of the Army/National Guard.

Following the mandate, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration, stating that the mandate overstepped Biden’s ruling authority and was ´unconstitutional´. 

Austin in past elections has leaned Democratic, with 71.6% of voters voting for Biden in the 2020 election according to CNN. Despite Gov. Abbott’s request, the local school district AISD has instituted a mask mandate within their schools.

In light of this disagreement, it perhaps not surprising that Abbott has lost popularity with many of the students within AISD, including those who are seniors–and will be eligible to vote during the midterms this November.

Let’s all just get vaccinated so we can be done with this pandemic and get back to our normal lives.

— senior Zoe Lynch

Katie Peterson, a McCallum senior, is one of these students.

When asked if she would vote Greg Abbott for governor, her response was:

¨Hell no.¨

Peterson moved to Texas from New Hampshire in July 2021.

Her town in New Hampshire was very compliant with mask mandates and CDC regulations and therefore were able to contain, and prevent the spread of the virus. As a result, Peterson never had to go to online school.

¨I don’t really have a good standard of how to handle things like this, but all I know is that I will not be OK if we go online,¨ Peterson said. ¨I think we’ve reached a point whereas an individual I just have to make sure that I’m doing all I can do because I can’t really control people around me.¨

Peterson believes this to be a result of how Gov. Abbott has managed vaccine and mask requirements throughout the state.

Senior Zoe Lynch has a similar viewpoint.

¨I think Gov. Abbott should be doing more to fight COVID,¨ Lynch said last month. “We’re in Stage 5 and have been [in a pandemic] for the last two years. Let’s all just get vaccinated so we can be done with this pandemic and get back to our normal lives.¨

Travis County has since dropped to Stage 4 and might soon drop to Stage 3, but that good news hasn’t changed many seniors’ view of how the state government has handled the pandemic.

I wish Abbott had done more from the beginning to mandate masks and advise everyone to get vaccinated.

— senior Mia Gomez

Senior Mia Gomez also has some concerns regarding Abbott’s management of the pandemic.

“I wish Abbott had done more from the beginning to mandate masks and advise everyone to get vaccinated¨ Gomez said. ¨I think he handled the pandemic poorly, and I don’t plan on voting for him.”

Gomez doesn’t think Abbott will ever be a viable candidate for her, especially considering the other laws he passed during his time in office.

“Him passing the new abortion laws [SB8] in Texas just shows what he’s capable of, and I can’t wait for him to be out of office,” Gomez said.

Peterson agrees. She feels Abbott’s banning on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and his anti-LGBTQ laws preventing transgender students from participating in sports shows specifically that he will not support her as a voter.

“One of the main things that I really hate about him is the war [he has started] against reproductive rights,” Peterson said. “He’s pretty corrupt and as a not straight woman I honestly do not feel supported or safe under his administration.¨

The minute they made masks political, they quit caring about people.

— senior Ellie Schottman

Gov. Abbott’s actions will likely be large determinants in his re-election campaign during the Nov 8 midterm election. His recent legislation in regards to abortion rights [SB8], LGBTQ-IA+ rights, and lack of strict COVID-19 restrictions reflect his pro-life and conservative agenda. While this will likely give him a leg up with the conservative voters in Texas, the youth vote is expected to lean more to the left.

According to a December survey of registered Texas voters, “The Democratic Party holds positive net favorability among young residents, with a net +8 points of favorability” while the “Republican Party is underwater, with a net favorability of -14 points;”. 

McCallum’s young voters, however, have expressed their discontent with Gov. Abbott’s management of the pandemic. Many feel that if Gov. Abbott had better navigated the COVID-19 outbreak, then they would have regained more normalcy in their fleeting years before adulthood. 

“The minute they made masks political, they quit caring about people,” senior Ellie Schottman said. ¨And that should have never happened. I think it’s bigger than Gov. Abbott, but the government should have implemented stronger policies. Then we would have been able to get out of this quicker.” 

In attempt to provide a conservative perspective on Abbott’s re-election we reached out to multiple conservative organizations (Young Republicans of Texas, Young Republicans of Austin) on multiple platforms but did not get a response.