Help Students Vote Act Introduced in U.S. House and Senate

Washington, D.C. (April 19, 2018) – Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi were joined by The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s program participants and partners on Capitol Hill yesterday to introduce 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.

“Now, more than ever, as we see students across the country that have started to raise their voices, it’s up to all of us to help turn those voices into votes,” said Valencia Richardson, alumna of The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Vote Everywhere Program at Louisiana State University and current Puffin Democracy Fellow, who helped introduce the legislation on Capitol Hill. “The Help Students Vote Act is the push needed to ensure that students like me never feel lost in the democratic process.”

“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.”

During his speech in Washington D.C., Dr. Lane Perry, the director of the Center for Service-Learning at Western Carolina University and The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Vote Everywhere Campus Champion, said that The Help Students Vote Act is “a great faith policy” that allows campus administrators to educate students about the voting process, and expressed the dangers of uninformed and unengaged young people. “If we do not prepare and teach the next generation of engaged citizens the ideals of our democracy, then we unknowingly expose its Achilles’ heel. We expose the fact that without a strong understanding of the tenants of democracy, especially free and fair elections, we erode the foundation of the next generation of our citizens.”

The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Vote Everywhere network is home to 54 colleges and universities, reaching nearly 1,000,000 students. Our student Ambassadors work with their campus communities to educate, register, and turn out student voters, identify and remove voting impediments, and advocate for policy changes that create a more inclusive democracy. The Help Students Vote Act will ensure that all students in North Carolina will receive information about registering to vote.

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