College students face special challenges when attempting to register and vote in their college communities. Students often lack information about voter registration rules and deadlines, do not have acceptable ID for voting purposes, are confused about where to vote, may not have transportation to the polls, and occasionally are confronted by unfriendly or unsympathetic elections officials or poll workers. The rights of student voters have been under attack from state legislatures around the country as they pursue new laws that seek to limit access to the polls. Campus Vote Project seeks to address these challenges well in advance of Election Day to pave the way for improved student voter turnout.
Barriers to Student Voting
State legislatures have enacted or are considering reforms that can affect the ability of students to register and vote. Some efforts target student voters directly, but even broader changes can impact student voters’ ability to register and cast a ballot. Campus administrators and student leaders should be aware of any new changes and take a leadership role in informing students about changes they may face leading up to Election Day. Below are some common barriers to student voters. For information on how to register and vote in your specific state visit www.campusvoteproject.org/state-student-guides/
Direct Limitations on Student Voting
Policymakers in Maine and New Hampshire have recently taken steps to prevent students from registering to vote in their college communities by redefining residency rules and targeting students with misleading information.
Strict Voter ID Requirements
Some state legislatures have passed or are considering laws that would require a voter to show photo identification at the polls. The laws differ as to whether a student id or other college-generated documents are acceptable. Changes to id requirements could affect the ability of out-of-state students who lack an in-state driver’s license, those who live in dorms that do not provide utility bills, and others.
Limiting Third-Party Voter Registration Opportunities
Some states have begun implementing new restrictions on third party voter registration operations, including onerous reporting and delivery requirements that make registration drives far less feasible. In 2008, 1.7 million young people ages 18-29 registered to vote via third-party registration drives.
Cutting Early Voting Options
In some states, new laws are shortening the amount of time in which early voting is available. According to the Center for Information & Research and Civic Learning & Engagement (Circle), 24% of young voters took advantage of early voting options in 2008.
Eliminating Same Day or Election Day Registration
Options that allow voters to register and vote at the same time have also come under attack. These options are widely believed to increase young voter turnout.