First “Voting Pep Rally” in the State Takes Place at Westwood


With the help of the League of Women Voters, seniors learn how to register to vote. Photo courtesy of @JimmyFlannigan on Twitter.

On Monday, Oct. 1, seniors were summoned to the Field House to listen to a presentation regarding the importance of voting. This event, which was the first of its kind in Texas, included speakers such as City of Austin Council Member Jimmy Flannigan. Seniors were taught not only why they should vote and how to vote, but were given an opportunity to register and offered knowledge regarding the nuances of voting machines.

“The decisions that politicians make at local, state, and federal levels are going to have impacts felt by 18-year-olds and high school seniors far longer than they’re going to be felt by anyone else,” Council Member Flannigan said. “You all have every right — in fact, you need to demand the right — to have a say in what the future of this country, this city, and this state looks like.”

The presentation began with Principal Mario Acosta sharing his thoughts on the importance of eligible seniors voting and transitioned into Council Member Flannigan, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, and Commissioner for Precinct One Terry Cook giving their points of view.

Even I learned things today about the nuances of different ballots and I’ve been voting for a long time,” Mr. Acosta said. “I think what it means for our senior class is that they got a little bit of education that we couldn’t give you without this setup.”

Lined up in front of the other set of bleachers in the field house during and after this event were numerous volunteers who not only offered registration services for eligible seniors but also provided the assistance needed to find out any required information that students might not know. After the presentation ended, dozens of seniors headed over to the tables to register.

“We’ve done three voter registration drives this semester, and I think we’ve registered a total of eight seniors. But right now I’m looking at tables and we’ve got, I don’t know, 40 or 50 or 60 people total that have come through and try to register,” Mr. Acosta said. “Number one I think we’ve impacted the number of students who’ve gotten registered. Now what it allows me to do from now to November 6 is to talk to the senior class on the announcements and through email and say, ‘Hey don’t forget if you’re registered, we have to vote.’”

After the event ended, Commissioner Cook expanded on her ideas of why it is important for eligible high schoolers to vote.

“Democracy doesn’t work unless people participate, so unless we the people go to the polls, democracy will not survive,” Commissioner Cook said. “The 18 to 34 year olds have had a pretty dismal record over all these years of not turning out to vote. So we’re now starting with the 18 years old and we’re going to see if we can change that turnout factor.”

To further encourage seniors to vote, Council Member Flannigan has set up a competition between Westwood and its sister school, McNeil.

“I’m going to be watching who’s voting from Westwood and who’s voting from McNeil. Make sure to tweet or Facebook or Instagram your ‘I Voted’ selfie with #WestwoodVotes,” Mr. Flannigan said. “I’m going to be watching the #McNeilVotes as well, and after the election, I’m going to recognize whichever campus turned out the most voters.”

However, city officials and Westwood staff are not the only people passionate about seniors voting; there is plenty of enthusiasm for these midterm elections among seniors as well.

“I think [seniors registering] is really significant because it shows that we really care about our community and making an impact, and it was the first time the senior class has really been together. I felt like we have more of a common bond now, which is awesome because again it shows that we all care about our community and we’re destined for great things,” Sophia Norton ‘19 said.

To close out his thoughts, Mr. Acosta imparted the most important message of the event onto the students one last time.

“I loved Commissioner Cook’s passionate speech: the only thing we can do wrong here is not vote. That’s the only wrong thing,” Mr. Acosta said. “Whether you vote one direction or another, that’s not the point. The point is if we don’t participate in the democracy, that’s the bad part. Hopefully the senior class walked away with the right message.”

With as many seniors that registered after the event, one can only hope that the numbers under ‘#WestwoodVotes’ on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram come Nov. 6 reflect Westwood’s passion for local and state issues.