Retired teachers return to classrooms, but with a different mission: Getting students registered to vote

SAN ANTONIO — Retired teachers are back in the classroom, but on a different mission as they’re helping eligible students register to vote.

It’s part of a nationwide push to get the youth more involved in voting process and KENS 5 had the opportunity to follow around these volunteers as they met with seniors at Harlandale High School.

Volunteers with Educators Voter Registration Initiative (EVRI) are helping students exercise their right to vote.

The all-volunteer organization is made up of mostly retired teachers.

“We still see ourselves as educators, because that’s what we’re doing when we go in the classrooms,” said Deputy Volunteer Registrar, Peggy Contreras, who taught social studies at Churchill High School.

They teach students what’s required to vote and then they help with applications before submitting the paperwork to the county election district.

In Texas, you are allowed to register to vote at the age of 17 years and 10 months. You do not have to wait until you’re 18.

“If your birthday is June 5, 2006 or before, you meet the age requirement,” Miles told the students.

EVRI is a non-partisan organization.

“A lot of them bring up. ‘Well, who are you going to vote for?’ We don’t go there. We don’t talk about that,” said Contreras.

Seniors at Harlandale High School who registered this week will be eligible to vote in the May Primary runoffs.

We asked Contreras if it felt good to be back in the classroom on a different kind of mission.

“Yeah, except not all the papers to grade over the weekend,” she replied, laughing.

Most states in the U.S. have online voter registration. Texas is one of eight states that do not, according to EVRI.

Harlandale Senior, Edward Martinez, registered to vote and plans to for the first time in November.

“Since I can vote now, it’ll be easier to get things across. Maybe find someone else who can do things a little better,” said Martinez. “I got the sticker, so that’s always good!”

EVRI says while there’s a lot of focus on colleges and universities when it comes to voter registration, focusing on high school is more equitable since not everyone goes to college.

While Texas law requires high school principals to offer voter registration, research by the University of Houston found that nearly 75% of Texas schools failed to comply with voter registration legal requirements.

We asked Harlandale senior, Roger Dominguez what he was most excited about now that he can vote.

“Voting for president,” he replied with a smile.

For Dominguez, the wait is over. Come November, he’ll be ready to cast his ballot in the biggest global election year in history.

“My parents would always go vote when I was little, and I would always want to go with them. But they always told me no, that I was too little,” said Dominguez. “Now I’m 18, so I have the opportunity to go with them to vote. It’s pretty special.”

His advice to classmates who hesitant to get involved?

“Learn more about it and vote,” he suggested. “I feel like if we got everybody’s opinion around the area, it would make a change for what people want.”

Since EVRI started in 2014, they’ve registered more than 20,000 students.

That includes at least 70 students at Harlandale High School this semester alone and 100 students at Johnson High School Tuesday alone.

If a school wants EVRI to do voter registration at their campus, they can email: hsreg2vote@gmail.com

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