College students face special challenges when attempting to register and vote in their college communities. They lack information about voter registration rules and deadlines, do not have acceptable ID for voter registration or 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. In 2011 the situation got worse when state legislatures around the country pursued new laws that sought to limit access to the polls, with particularly damaging effects for student voters. The Campus Vote Project seeks to address these challenges well in advance of Election Day to pave the way for successful student voter turnout in 2012. New Barriers to Student Voting: In the lead-up to the 2012 election, many state legislatures have enacted or are considering reforms that will affect the ability of students to register and vote. Some efforts target student voters directly, but most make broader changes that could nonetheless fall hard on student voters. Campus administrators and student leaders should contact local elections officials to check for updates to rules and policies in the following areas.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
For more information on student voting, check out our report College Students and Voting: A Campus Vote Project Perspective