Beto O’Rourke Speaks Outside of Voting Stations Around Austin


On Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, two days after early voting opened in Texas, Democratic candidate for Senate Beto O’Rourke spoke at a small rally organized near the Purple Sage Elementary voting station. Dozens of people gathered around a truck where Beto, holding a megaphone, gave roughly a seven minute speech about his views on certain current issues and why people should vote. Beto was certainly the main attraction of the Democratic rally, but before he arrived other speakers had their turn at the podium as well.

The first of these speakers was City Councilman Jimmy Flannigan, who represents District 6 of the city of Austin. Flannigan, getting the crowd warmed up for O’Rourke, encouraged spectators to “vote Democrat straight down the ballot” and told a story of how political views in the district had shifted dramatically since 2014, when, according to Flannigan, it was “dangerous” to be a Democrat in the area whereas now it is “expected.”

Despite the fact that the event was advertised as non-partisan, there were only Democrats that spoke to the crowd. Only flyers supporting Democrats were passed out, only signs representing Democrats were displayed, and only shirts supporting Beto were worn. All of this, while technically not against regulation since the rally did not take place in the actual polling area but rather outside of it, was discouraged in one of the official invitations to the event. Still, attendees seemed adamant in showing support for their chosen party.

While these rallies that O’Rourke hosted all over Austin on the 24th were the talk of the town that day, these events were but drops in the bucket compared to all the campaigning that has taken place over the course of the election cycle for both parties.

And this campaigning has certainly paid off.

35.4 percent of registered voters in Texas have already voted this election cycle, obliterating the numbers seen for the entire last midterm election in 2014 in just 11 days of early voting. In fact, this is less than 5 percent away from the total participation from the 2012 presidential election. This is due in no small part to the widespread encouragement for people, especially young people, to vote, a campaign which has been seen across social media and in-person platforms alike.

“I realized [as I was campaigning] that people were more engaged than I thought previously,” David Kim ‘19 who participated in political campaigning said. “I do think though that there’s still a general apathy towards people coming out to campaign politically, but I understand that people wouldn’t want to talk about politics on a Sunday morning as well.”

The true numbers of this election will not be revealed until election day on Nov. 6 has passed, but the current statistics are very promising for voter participation in Texas, something which has previously been rather lackluster compared to other states.

Similar to the 2016 presidential election, tensions have been high. There have been insults and harsh words thrown out by both sides, such as when Senator Cruz suggested that Beto should share a cell with Hillary Clinton, and it has only led to unfortunate incidents such as the vandalization of the Austin Beto O’Rourke mural.

“No matter what the results are,” Kim said, “just don’t hate anyone.”