LSU Geaux Vote’s proposal to change the voting precincts around campus to provide one central location for University students to vote passed Wednesday after the group had been advocating the change for over three years.
Previously, students on the west side of Highland Road have voted at a different location than the students on the east side of Highland Road, who have the luxury of voting on campus at University High.
Before the legislation was passed, a student living on the west side of Highland Road would be permitted to vote in federal elections at University High, but would be turned away from state and local elections.
In 2016, Geaux Vote passed legislation allowing University High to serve as a voting location for students living on the west and east sides of Highland Road. However, the results of the legislation passing never came to fruition.
Geaux Vote soon realized that by altering voting districts, they were displacing many Baton Rouge residents from their local polls. Changes were made to the proposal and it was debated at the Metro City Council Meeting Wednesday, where Geaux Vote President and mass communication senior Zoe Williamson and mass communication freshman Drake Brignac spoke in front of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Council on behalf of their proposed legislation.
Williamson said Geaux Vote does not want to displace Baton Rouge residents, and the proposed boundaries changes to Precinct 46 would only affect students living around campus.
Williamson said students living on the west side of Highland Road are often confused about their voting locations and Geaux Vote members have to ask students which dorm they live in before directing them to the proper location.
Williamson said she hopes the proposed legislation, if passed, would make voting more accessible to the younger Baton Rouge demographic.
Since Brignac’s family resides in Prairieville, he has to vote at Dutchtown High School, which is over an hour away from the University. While Brignac occasionally makes the trip out to the polls, he said he once almost missed the deadline, and this past December was unable to make the trip because of schoolwork and other commitments.
“It broke my heart in December when I received a text from my father saying, ‘I didn’t see that you voted today,'” Brignac said. “It’s something really small. One vote. But something that tied me and my dad together was broken. I really wish I would have been able to tell him, ‘I did vote, Dad.’”
Brignac said he hopes the legislation will help students like him who are interested in civil engagement and want to enact change but face difficulties participating due to work, school and extracurricular activities.
Councilwoman Tara Wicker said she was excited to see the initiative had continued over the years, since many students who had taken part in the original initiative had now graduated.
“I was a little nervous because there had been a little bit of public criticism since people were afraid this would displace community members, but we worked very hard to ensure they wouldn’t,” Williamson said.