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. Starting 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. New Barriers to Student Voting: In the lead-up to the 2012 and 2014 elections, 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 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.
- Access to registration and voting. While over 20 states now offer varying levels of online voter registration, other election law changes, including strict voter ID laws, burdensome proof of citizenship and proof of residence documentation requirements, and the removal of early voting and Election Day polling locations from college communities directly limits students access to registration and voting opportunities.
- 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. For example, North Carolina cut a week off their early voting options and no longer allows same day registration during that time, and Ohio also cut their "golden week" as well. 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 a state-by-state breakdown of where student ID is accepted as voter ID visit: http://fairelectionsnetwork.com/student-id-map
For more information on student voting, check out our report College Students and Voting: A Campus Vote Project Perspective