FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 18, 2018
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Help Students Vote Act Introduced in U.S. House and Senate
New legislation aims to ensure higher education institutions better support student voting
Washington, D.C. – Today Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi introduced the Help Students Vote Act, new legislation that will ensure higher education institutions are supporting student voter registration. Historically, young adults have voted at the lowest rates of any age group in national elections. While higher education institutions can serve as powerful incubators for civic engagement, college students face unique barriers in both registering to vote and voting, including confusion about the registration requirements and deadlines, as well as discouraging and misleading information. Institutions can play a significant role in alleviating the confusion and anxiety students face by taking simple steps to support registration and voting.
The Help Students Vote Act builds on the provision of the Higher Education Act that requires colleges and universities to make a “good-faith effort” to distribute voter registration forms, by adding much-needed clarity and support for voter registration. Under the bill, higher education institutions are expected to email students twice a year, and no less than 30 days before voter registration deadlines for federal and state elections, with links to voter registration information. It would also close the current loophole in the provision that exempts colleges and universities in certain states and would require every campus in every state to comply. Additionally, under the act colleges and universities would designate a “campus vote coordinator” to answer questions from students. Lastly, the act would create a system of accountability to ensure institutions abide by the provision, while opening up additional grant funding to campuses that greatly exceed the requirements.
“When students begin college each year, often having never voted or even registered, they frequently lack the institutional support and resources to navigate the voting process,” said Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. “We need to do everything we can to ensure that all Americans have access to the ballot box and this legislation will help engage hundreds of thousands more young Americans in our democracy. I’m proud to join Senator Booker in introducing our bill to bring new energy to our public institutions, strengthen our communities, and enrich our public discourse by helping students vote.”
“Some of the greatest movements in history have been driven by young people,” Senator Booker said. “From the Freedom Riders of the 1960s to the Vietnam War protesters of the 1970s to the most recent student activism sweeping the country around gun violence – our nation’s young people have continuously pushed our country to a better, more just, and more progressive future.
“Unfortunately, young people today face more barriers than they should when trying to make their voices heard at the ballot box. Our bill helps alleviate some of the confusion and anxiety college students have about voting by adding much-needed federal guidance on how colleges and universities can ensure their students have the resources they need to register to vote and vote.”
“What state you live in and what college you attend shouldn’t determine the civic education you receive and whether your campus ensures you have the information you need to register and vote,” said Clarissa Unger, Young Invincibles’ Director of Civic Engagement. “By making voting and democratic participation a core value on campus, colleges and universities can help students become active citizens long into the future. The Help Students Vote Act will ensure that students nationwide get the information they need to register to vote and become involved in our democratic process, many for the first time ever.”
Recent research shows that despite myths that young people aren’t civically engaged, student voting has seen a recent uptick. Research out of Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education found there was a seven percent increase in turnout among student voters in the 2016 presidential election compared with the election in 2012. This improvement speaks to the important role colleges, universities and on-campus communities play in helping young people overcome barriers to voting. The Help Students Vote Act will provide clear guidelines for campuses to continue supporting this progress and reach more students.
“Since the founding of our country, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and others have expressed the civic mission of education is vital to prepare students to participate in our democracy,” said Michael Burns, National Director at Campus Vote Project. “Voter registration is the key that unlocks the door to our democracy and this bill provides guidance, accountability, and rewards to campuses for giving students that key.”
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