A provision in the Texas Election Code requires all high school principals to serve as deputy voter registrars, and during a recent visit to the McLennan County Elections Office, Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos highlighted his push for that provision to be followed and taken advantage of by the state’s youngest eligible voters.

Pablos met with McLennan County Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe and her staff Tuesday during a stop on a statewide tour to discuss economic development in rural areas and small cities.

Pablos stressed his desire for all high school principals to follow the provision, which applies to public and private schools. In addition to requiring principals to serve as registrars, the code states they “shall distribute an officially prescribed registration application form to each student who is or will be 18 years of age or older during that year.”

While Pablos did not know figures for McLennan County principals off the top of his head, his website lists Texas superintendents who have pledged all high school principals in their district will comply. The list includes pledges from the county’s two largest districts, Waco Independent School District and Midway ISD, in addition to Moody ISD, but several other local districts are missing.

Pablos, who was appointed as the 111th secretary of state by Gov. Greg Abbott in January, sent a letter in September to superintendents offering to send districts all materials needed to fulfill their duties as deputy registrars. He said there were previously less than 200 high school principals in the state signed up. Now, more than 800 have become deputy registrars, he said.

It must become a tradition for schools to hand out voter registration cards to students when they turn 18, Pablos said.

Van Wolfe said both the McLennan County Democratic Party and the McLennan County Republican Party have worked hard to engage youth and students in the election process.

Both parties recruit student volunteers, and the assistance is greatly appreciated on Election Day, she said.

Van Wolfe told Pablos the next big move for the elections department will be buying new equipment. She said she is aiming to have new equipment before the 2020 election cycle.

Van Wolfe told county commissioners in May of last year that the county’s decade-old equipment, which cost $10 million, may not last longer than three to five more years.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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