Discover more from New Voters Newsletter
Howdy From Austin
By Harjot Sangha
In January of 2023, I made a decision that changed my life. While opening my school email account, I noticed a post requesting students from our school district to attend a rally on the steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin and speak with Texas Legislators. I decided to sign up and I waited patiently until the day arrived, which was February 27, 2023. This was the day I discovered a newfound passion for civics.
As the charter bus full of students set off early in the morning from Dallas to Austin, all I could do was worry if my questions were intelligent enough for our lawmakers. I was so nervous that I continued to type new ones into my phone. The day began with the rally where students, parents, educators, and administrators from all over the state led the march up the steps and addressed everyone gathered from the podium about the goals of Raise Your Hand Texas. All the people standing together worked with the public education system and were determined to speak with legislators to ask about the future of education in the state of Texas. Simply listening to the words of the people on the steps to watching as a high school marching band from San Antonio performed, I managed to convince myself that though I had never spoken to a Texas Legislator before, they were ordinary people just as I was.
As we moved deeper into the capital, we were divided into smaller groups and finally received the immensely rewarding opportunity to speak with members of the Texas House of Representatives. We had been waiting for this moment. Matt Shaheen from District 66 was the first representative we spoke with. As each of us took our turns asking questions about the $33 billion surplus in the state budget, or how new funding would increase student benefits, I noticed a very important detail; when voting for lawmakers, many people tend to think that their vote doesn’t have an impact or that it could be canceled out by the person right next to them. However, each vote does have its own significant impact because each individual vote decides which representatives will be standing in the offices underneath the city of Austin. In addition, each vote determines which representatives will be speaking with students about how they plan to make their campuses better or their futures much more attainable.
Many people also do not have access to proper resources for voting or even just voting registration itself, which can lead to underrepresented voices in not only our state of Texas, but across the nation. Everyone has a voice, but many people are limited to what they can say or do when they cannot participate due to certain circumstances. While speaking with other representatives such as Matt Leach from District 67, gave me a similar outlook as we asked imperative questions about the recapture funds that people across the state helped pay for.
For the rest of the day, I continued to think about how important it was to participate and elect people who support your goals. As we continued walking through the capital and taking photos with the members of our school district, my mind continued churning with possibilities, ideas, and thoughts. Under the dome of the capital was where my interest in civics began and was first fostered in my mind. I decided to do something with my newfound passion and began looking into opportunities where I could assist people with registering to vote or more simply, provide resources on voter participation to inspire others. That was when I discovered New Voters, a nonpartisan, youth-led nonprofit, that empowers the youth of the United States to engage in voter registration and other civic events. After working as an Operations intern, I have learned numerous invaluable lessons, whether they be about communication or collaboration on a team, that I will constantly hold onto and allow to continue to shape my interest in civics. An interest that was first formed by speaking with a lawmaker about what Texas holds for the future of its youth.
“Texas Has Record $33 Billion Budget Surplus as State Legislative Session Set to Begin - CBS Texas.” Www.cbsnews.com, 10 Jan. 2023, www.cbsnews.com/texas/news/texas-has-record-33-billion-budget-surplus-as-state-legislative-session-set-to-begin/. Accessed 30 July 2023.
(All images taken by me.)