Some Stanford students from Texas are returning home during the midterm election in order to ensure their votes register, due to concerns over whether their mail-in ballots will be counted.
In the wake of increased regulation of mail-in voting during the pandemic, Texas voters have had to navigate new ID requirements for mail-in ballots, which led to hundreds of ballots being returned in primaries earlier this year.
Katie Kearney ’24 has struggled to get ahold of her ballot from Austin, Texas. According to Kearney, current Texas guidelines only allow mail-in ballots across state lines under certain circumstances, one of those being for Texas voters attending college out of state. Kearney was told by state authorities that her ballot could not be sent to Stanford’s Undergraduate Mail & Package Center as it “didn’t seem like a valid address that they would send a ballot to,” Kearney said.
“I had to go around and find some friends who lived in the Palo Alto area and see if I could send my ballot to one of their houses,” Kearney said.
She also said Texas legislation closely examines ballots for inputs such as incorrect driver’s license numbers and is “very keen on throwing out mailing ballots that aren’t absolutely perfect.” Kearney is currently awaiting her mail-in ballot and intends to fly home to vote if necessary.
Some students have already booked their flights. Lauren Koong ’26, who writes for The Daily, is returning to Houston this Thursday to reach the final date for voting in her county. Koong opted to vote in person instead of by mail due to the “controversy surrounding mail-in ballots during the 2020 presidential election” and her fears that her ballot will be “misplaced.”
Koong said she was concerned about her vote counting because many young people in her hometown were apathetic towards civic engagement. “I honestly think that not enough youth care about voting,” Koong said. “I think it’s a bigger issue over there.”
Emma Neidig ’25 originally planned to fly to Elgin, Texas, with her brother this election season. But they opted to mail their ballot instead due to midterm exams and flight prices.
“I was planning to go because I’ve had so many ballot issues in the past. It either was not arriving or it was sent to the wrong address back home,” Emma Neidig said.
She mentioned how important this election season is, especially after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. “It really hits me in the heart because if I don’t have rights in Texas,” Emma said, “there’s no reason that I would go back home after I graduate.”
Emma’s brother, Jacob Neidig ’23, shared similar regrets about not being able to vote in person. For him, voting by mail is a risk he’d rather not take again. “After last year, when my ballot got rejected, we thought it a pretty good reason to go back and guarantee that my vote gets counted this time,” Jacob said.
In the previous election, Jacob’s mail-in ballot was invalidated and he said he had several issues with communicating with their local election officials. “The issue is that the level of scrutiny of these ballots is extremely high, and the timeliness of when those ballots have to be returned is also extremely high,” he said.
Ananya Udaygiri ’26, who writes for The Daily, already made a trip home to vote in Houston. Udaygiri said she decided to vote in person because officials “losing ballots” has been common since the previous election.
Udaygiri said she still encountered a few obstacles when approaching the ballot box in person, including difficulty registering as well as not receiving prior notice that her home had been redistricted.
Despite these barriers, she and her family were still adamant about voting, especially considering the offices at stake in November. “I think a lot of Texas people would agree that this is really important considering the election of Greg Abbott,” Udaygiri said. “I was involved with Beto O’Rourke’s campaign in high school and so voting for him was something that was obviously really important to me.”
“Texas needs my vote,” Udaygiri said.
This article has been corrected to reflect the proper spelling of Katie Kearney’s name. The Daily regrets this error.