Hays County sees major rise in voter registration numbers

As the deadline to participate in the November midterm elections nears, more than 129,000 Hays County residents have already signed up to participate.

But as the number of registered voters in Hays County increases, officials hope residents follow through and cast a ballot once Election Day hits.

As of last week, more than 129,000 people have registered to vote in Hays County, said Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson. It’s an uptick from the 104,000 Hays County residents who registered to vote in the 2014 midterm elections.

Hays County, however, is notorious for producing a low voter turnout in comparison to its population. Roughly 50 percent of residents are registered each election on average and even fewer show up to cast a ballot. 

Anderson attributes the rise in registered voters this election cycle to an increased interest in politics.

“It depends on the election year,” Anderson said. “They (registration numbers) are typically higher for presidential elections, but we’re expecting this gubernatorial election to show numbers closer to the 2016 (Presidential) election than the previous gubernatorial race.”

Anderson said efforts to register voters are also increasing as well. Anderson said the Elections Office has sworn in more Deputy Voter Registrars this year than in the past. Those registrars are responsible for educating residents on voter registration guidelines and proving registration materials.

“This year we have had a lot of interest from people wanting to be a Deputy Voter Registrar,” Anderson said. “With them we are educating more potential voters.”

The League of Women Voters of Hays County also takes on the job to educate and inform potential voters. The organization sets up registration events at local libraries, schools and at Texas State University. A new position called the Voter Registration Chair was created to streamline LWV’s efforts.

Ida Miller, the voter registration chair in Hays County, said potential voters often skip out of the voting process because they don’t feel like they know much about the candidates. Those potential voters also don’t feel like they have a variety of candidate options or they might feel like their opinion doesn’t matter.

Miller said residents are more educated about their local and state candidates than in the past. Miller cites efforts from the candidates, but also due to increased interest in the political process.

“There’s (some) indication that voters don’t feel prepared to vote or feel well-informed,” Miller said. “It could be that they don’t like the candidates, but I think we have a diverse slate (of candidates) this year.”

The LWV has registered 742 new voters at 45 events across the county with 52 volunteers helping them. Miller said the LWV intends to add chapters in Kyle, Buda and Dripping Springs by the next election cycle.

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