28-year-old Democratic progressive Kurt Lockhart announced his bid for Travis County Clerk earlier this year. Lockhart is hoping to replace current clerk Dana DeBeauvoir who announced her retirement in November after 35 years of service.
According to his campaign website, Lockhart’s policy priorities include pro-voter ideas to shorten lines and wait times in Travis County. For context, the county clerk’s position consists of handling county data and managing elections.
The Signal spoke with Lockhart to learn more about his run for the position of Travis County Clerk, the policies he wants to implement, and his favorite voting memory.
Like most Democrats, Lockhart said he was disappointed at the Texas Republicans voter suppression bill that Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law. The bill was also signed into law after Texas Democrats broke quorum and headed to Washington D.C. to push congressional lawmakers in passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
“It’s so disappointing that these new ideas, these innovations … you know things that we all agree on, we all want more people to vote, right,” Lockhart said. “These are now the subject of Republican outrage and their attempt to oppress voting is really sad.”
According to reports, provisions in Senate Bill 1 like a ban on drive-thru and 24-hour will specifically affect minorities, disabled, young, and older voters.
So Lockhart said a plan to open more voting locations in Travis County and expanding voting hours till 10:00 p.m. is just one way to help voters gain access to the ballot box — specifically heavily populated areas such as the University of Texas, where long wait lines have been consistent in recent elections.
“Obviously I was very disappointed when the bill was all passed, but there’s still more we can do that wasn’t banned,” Lockhart said. “The bill targeted so many groups, disability communities, older voters, people of color, young people, it’s terrible for a lot of reasons.”
In addition to working for Raise Your Hand Texas, Lockhart worked as a Travis County poll worker and registrar where he learned to appreciate the importance of the election process.
“I recommend everyone be a poll worker at some point in their life,” Lockhart said. “So I just learned a lot about how elections don’t just happen, they require careful planning and operations and training to make sure that when you walk up and you go to cast your ballot everything runs smoothly.”
So another policy Lockhart is prioritizing is raising the poll worker wage to $15 an hour. According to reports, both Harris and Bexar counties pay their poll workers $17 while Travis County only pays $10.
“A lot of people think poll work is volunteer work, but it’s actually a job,” Lockhart said. “So when I saw Travis was only paying $10 it didn’t seem right. I mean the level of effort and training that’s required to do this job.”
Lockhart said he is also running to change the current election system in the county, which has two separate offices to register voters and handles elections operations.
“That old system comes from Jim Crow where folks had to pay a poll tax before they registered to vote,” he said. “So we still have that relic from Jim Crow, that’s still here in Travis County … and that alone is a major reason for us to consider transitioning into the new system but also it’s just easier for voters.”
Lockhart said he is also running to develop a countywide elections app that would provide voters information about elections, voting ballots, and poll locations. Additionally, he hopes to expand the Student Election Clerk program to increase voter participation in high schoolers.
“There’s more we can do to make voting easier and I believe I have the experience from the private and nonprofit sector along with the passion that I served on the ground as a VDR and poll worker to be the next county clerk here in Travis,” he said.
The last day to file for office in Texas is Dec. 13, 2021, three months before election day set for March 1, 2022.